Shift Work Nutrition:

Are You Running On Empty?

closeup empty Gas Tank Illustration

Thanks to a very disrupted lifestyle which includes eating at erratic times, missing meal breaks or following a diet which is well, perhaps not the healthiest – shift workers often feel as though they’re running on flat batteries.  In fact a Japanese study of second-year medical students who skipped breakfast and ate their meals irregularly, showed a high prevalence of fatigue.

That being said, have you considered how what you are eating, may NOT be providing you with the energy boosting fuel that you require?

By this I’m referring to a diet which is made up of predominantly processed carbohydrates and sugars which are essentially ’empty calories’, and provide you with very little nourishment.

Without sufficient nourishment, we cannot function as well as we should.

It’s kind of like filling up a Ferrari sports car with contaminated fuel.  The engine is going to choke and splutter a lot because it’s not receiving the right fuel in order for it to be able to function.

So I’d like to pose this question to you.

Do you treat your body as if it’s a finely tuned, luxurious Ferrari or a dilapidated piece of junk not worthy of good nutrition?  Because unlike a motor vehicle, you cannot trade it in or upgrade it for something else!

Balanced diets are incredibly important for everyone, but even more so for sleep-deprived, energy depleted shift workers who have to function on little sleep.

This is because studies have shown diets which are high in fat or sugar, can disrupt circadian rhythms.

As if our circadian rhythms are not disrupted enough!

There is also mounting evidence that eating meals during the night-time (when our circadian rhythms are instinctively trying to promote sleep), can lead to a decrease in alertness, enhance weight gain and increase the risk of metabolic disorders such as obesity and/or Type 2 Diabetes.  This is why it’s recommended to avoid eating large meals between midnight and 6am, because the function of our entire digestive system, including the liver and pancreas, slows right down at this time of the night.


Shift Work Burnout – Ten Tips To Help Reduce The Debilitating Effects.

tempo per dormireWhen you work a 24/7 roster which encompasses some pretty ruthless hours, shift work burnout is going to be inevitable.

Considering sleep deprivation is often unavoidable and many employees have to work harder in today’s economic environment – burnout is becoming increasingly common amongst employees around the world.

But can you reduce the effects of shift work burnout?

You bet. And it all begins by watching out for the symptoms.

These may include things like headaches, stomach aches, high blood pressure, back and neck pain and even skin rashes. They are basically warning signs that your body is not at its optimum. In fact when you suffer from shift work burnout you can become more susceptible to viruses and other infections.

You may even begin to feel disillusioned at work and loose enthusiasm to do things. These are all warning signs. Some people may even develop a negative attitude and become quite cynical which can lead to varying degrees of depression.

Basically you begin to question what you are doing and why – which can lead to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

You may even feel so frustrated and dissatisfied in your job that you begin to take more days off than usual, but you know when things are getting particularly bad when it begins to affect your personal life. This may be a change in personality which at its worst, leads to aggressive behaviour towards your friends and family.

Definitely not a good sign.

So there is no denying that shift workers are prone to burnout as sleep deprivation can be one of the major contributing factors.

There are however some things which you can do to help reduce the effects of this burnout:

Ten Tips to Help Reduce Shift Work Burnout:

1. Use an imaginary bubble to help separate yourself from what’s going on around you. Try to detach yourself and become less emotionally involved with things that are happening in the workplace.

2. Find ways to relax and recharge. Listen to some music, meditate or practice yoga to help clear out the mental clutter.

3. Don’t try and be a martyr – you are not a machine. Despite what society seems to dictate these days, you don’t always have to appear strong.

4. Have realistic expectations. Shift work is tough – it really is, so you have to accept that feelings of burnout is actually normal. In fact it’s inevitable, so it’s important that you start taking care of yourself.

5. Try not to become too involved and take work problems home with you. Once you leave work turn off that imaginary switch in your head.

6. Seek help – talk to family and friends. Just admitting that you are experiencing burnout can make you feel better.

7. Cut out the overtime. Working exceedingly long hours in the fastest way to accelerate shift work burnout.

8. Allow yourself time to enjoy yourself and have a good laugh – guilt free. Treat yourself to some nice things for a change.

9. Be less intense at work – don’t take it seriously. Be carefree and have some fun.

10. Book yourself in for a check up. Just like your car needs servicing regularly – so does your body.

So it’s important to realise that you can never eliminate shift work burnout. It will come and go throughout your career for as long as you continue to work irregular hours.

However in order to reduce the debilitating effects, you must learn to recognize the symptoms (and don’t ignore them) so that you can begin to apply some simple strategies to help manage these feelings the best way you can.