Sleep Deprivation and Ongoing Exposure To Light – How It Affects Your Eating Behaviour.


The life of a shift worker certainly encompasses a fair amount of sleep deprivation.  In fact we could say it’s one of the many ‘perks’ to working 24/7.  However when you signed up to work shift work, did you know that this continual lack of sleep was going to affect your eating behaviour?

Probably not, but it certainly does – in two different ways.

Firstly, as TS Wiley explains in his book ‘Lights Out’, a lack of sleep disrupts an integral part of our bodily systems called the endocrine system.   The stomach or digestive tract is one of the largest endocrine organs in our body and makes and secretes two very important hormones which play an important role in our body’s metabolism.

These include the hormones Ghrelin and Leptin which help to regulate our appetite and as a result, play an influential role in our weight.

Unfortunately, the problem we have as shift workers is that studies have shown that sleep-deprivation causes a disruption in these appetite regulating hormones (Public Library of Science Medical Journal 2004), and does so by:

  • Reducing the production of leptin, the chemical that makes us feel full, in conjunction with
  • Increasing the levels of ghrelin, the hormone which stimulates our appetite or hunger.

This imbalance can lead us to becoming overweight because the Ghrelin hormone sends your brain a little message saying that it “needs” carbohydrates and sugars which is why many of us seek out these types of foods whenever we’re feeling physically and emotionally exhausted.

In other words, if you work 24/7.

In addition, when leptin is reduced we are not experiencing the usual feelings of fullness which can cause us to overeat.

The second way sleep deprivation disrupts out eating behaviour has to do with light – or more specifically being exposed to too much artificial light.

When we are constantly exposed to light (which is the case when working 24/7), it causes us to crave high carbohydrate foods such as sweets, salty and starchy foods (TS Wiley 2000).

This continual exposure to artificial light tricks our bodies into thinking its summer which signals us to eat. It fools our body into thinking it needs to eat to store fat for the impending winter.

In fact it’s our natural human instinct to do this – for our survival.

But when you work 24/7, there is no winter.  It’s continually summer because the sun never goes down thanks to a life of artificial lights.

This causes us to overeat, and overeat on all of the wrong kinds of foods.

So how can we prevent sleep deprivation and ongoing light exposure from disrupting our eating behaviour?  By simply being aware of it, enables you to do something about it by:

  • Having plenty of healthy snacks on hand during your shift, so that you don’t fall under the magnetic spell of the vending machine in the corridor.
  • Making sure that your meals are both nutritious and satisfying in order to help keep you feeling full. For example, home-made vegetable soups are a great option for shift workers because they provide plenty of fibre (perfect for sensitive stomachs prone to gastrointestinal disorders), and also have a high water content which helps to maintain satiety.
  • Drinking plenty of water throughout your shift is also going to help curb your appetite (and also save your waistline), because as you now know, in most instances you’re not really hungry – it’s just your sleep deprived hormones playing tricks on you!

Reference:  Taheri, S, Lin, L, Austin, D, Young T, Mignot E 2004, ‘Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin and increased body mass index,’ Public Library of Science Medical Journal, vol. 1, no. 62.

Why Working Shift Work Makes You Gain Weight!

Working shift work is hard – no question. But if you’re working shift work and trying to lose weight, then it can be even harder.

Because not only do shift workers have to work crazy hours, they also have to eat at irregular times as well.

And considering our digestive systems slow right down during the night when we should be sleeping – weight gain amongst shift workers is certainly a common place.

You’re also more likely to eat high processed, sugary foods, along with a vast array of high-caffeinated energy drinks to help keep you awake.

So how can you break away from this bad eating cycle?

Well it’s about taking responsibility for your health and being aware of the toxic food that you are putting into your mouth every single day.

You cannot expect to feel vibrant and healthy if you’re continually feeding your body processed foods . They cause havoc on your digestive system not only causing you to gain weight, but they also make you feel even more tired and lethargic than you already are.

But if your diet consists of whole foods – that is, foods that have undergone little on no processing, then your body will eventually discard the excess weight. You see weight loss is actually quite easy – if you stop eating junk.

It really is that simple.

So you may not have complete control over when you eat, but you certainly have complete control over what you eat.

It’s time to give up the soft drinks, crisps, lollies and fries. It’s not about depriving yourself of these foods – it’s about replacing them with good healthy food that will not only energize you – but keep the scales under control as well.

Attention All Shift Workers – Are You Still Searching For The Weight Loss Key?

A shift worker’s diet is never going to rate high on the nutrition scale because we tend to eat all of the wrong foods at all the wrong times of the day.

So what is the key to losing weight when you work shift work?

It’s called eating slowly.

Often we’re so busy that we just don’t take time to eat slowly. And putting food in our mouth forms only a very small part of the actual eating process.

Eating slowly is essential to good health. Why? Because if you eat in a hurry or grab a quick snack on the run you are compromising both your choice of food (it’s nutritional value) and your ability to digest it.

If your shift work job is quite demanding and stressful, you can sometimes feel compelled to eat in a hurry which actually sends a message to your brain to slow down the digestion process. As a result, that hurriedly chewed food sits in your stomach and intestines weighing you down, making you feel sluggish and reducing your energy levels.

A lot of shift workers today are also prone to experiencing digestive problems because of the erratic times that they eat, so when you combine this with eating in a hurry – then you are more likely to fall victim to this rather unpleasant ailment.

You see digestive problems are aggravated when you eat in a rush and fail to chew food properly. The stomach has to attempt to digest large chunks of food, which requires much more effort by your body. Your saliva contains digestive enzymes which are mixed with the food in your mouth, but only if you chew the food properly. If the food has not been broken down by chewing (from eating in a hurry), then it will just sit in your stomach until it can be broken down further.

This process uses a lot of extra digestive enzymes and energy which makes you feel sluggish – not good for shift workers who are already feeling severely tired and exhausted.

So the key to losing weight for shift workers is to eat good food AND eat it slowly. Try and take the time to relax a little before you eat. Even take a few deep breaths beforehand and in between each mouthful. This is what eating is all about – savouring the tastes and enjoying your food.

The Biggest Shift Work Struggle – And How You Can Beat It In An Instant!

As a fellow shift worker, have you ever wondered what the biggest shift work struggle actually is? What’s that most annoying, lingering pain that just doesn’t seem to go away when you work these crazy and irregular hours?

Well before I tell you this, I’d like to let you know that my loyal shift work followers just like you, come from all around the world. From Africa, to Ireland, Sweden, Hong Kong, Mauritius, Canada – you name it and I’ve had someone from that country opt-in and request my Free Report:

‘Why Shift Workers Are Prone To Tiredness, Ill Health and Unhappiness – And What YOU Can Do To Fix It!’

And no matter where they’re from, by far the biggest struggle that people tell me that they have when working shift work is fatigue. Hands down, no question about it.

And what’s interesting is that the majority of people blame sleep deprivation for this fatigue. Now I’m not going to disagree with you, because this definitely contributes to why so many shift workers live in a constant state of tiredness.

But is sleep deprivation entirely to blame? Absolutely not.

Because you can actually reduce your fatigue by simply changing your eating habits.

What goes in your mouth has enormous ramifications on how you feel and your overall level of energy. So much so that you can actually escalate your fatigue by eating or drinking, all of the wrong types of food or beverages.

Just like you go and fill up your car with premium fuel, you should be doing exactly the same with your own body.

Unfortunately for most shift workers, the tendency to fill up on what’s essentially “contaminated” fuel, is a much faster and much easier thing to do. Things like processed foods and caffeinated energy drinks only zap your energy and add to your fatigue.

So don’t just blame sleep deprivation as the main reason why you’re feeling so tired all of the time. The harsh reality is that we may not be able to change the roster, or the hours that we work, but we can certainly change what we put in our mouth.

It’s about taking 100% responsibility for your health and doing whatever it takes to help you to overcome fatigue whilst working these crazy and irregular hours.

Oh and I almost forgot! How can you beat fatigue in an instant? Go and grab yourself a piece of fruit. The water inside the fruit will help hydrate you (dehydration is one of the main causes of fatigue), and the natural sugar content inside the fruit (fructose) – will help give you a more long
lasting energy boost!

The Little Secret Weight Loss Tip That Could Change Your Life Forever!

Have you ever gone on a diet to lose weight but you ended up cheating a little bit – or perhaps even a lot? Now I want you to be brutally honest with me here … because I’m feeling pretty confident that you would be guilty of this, at some point in time.

Now when you committed this little “misdemeanour” – did you throw in the towel and quit, feeling miserable that you failed yet again on another one of your diets?

Well join the millions of other people around the world.

Because realistically – what’s a good diet without a bit of cheating?

And just to make you feel a little bit better – MOST people cheat whenever they start any new diet or eating program. Why? Because whenever you go on any new ‘diet’ – psychologically you think that you’re going to have to deprive yourself of food that you’ve grown to know and love.

Essentially you feel like you’re going to have to miss out on something. And to be honest, most people don’t have the willpower to beat temptation.

But the good news is that if you actually incorporate a little bit of “cheating” into your diet plan, it will actually enhance your chances of staying on the diet long term.

Now I can hear you say – “But won’t cheating defeat the purpose of going on a diet?”

Actually no – because being deprived of any of your favourite foods is certainly not an enjoyable experience, and who wants to do something that they don’t enjoy?

I don’t know about you, but if you were to tell me that I was never going to be able to eat another chocolate bar again or even a bowl of my favourite ice cream – then I would have to say – “you can keep your diet … I’m going to eat whatever I like!”

So what’s my little secret weight loss tip?

It’s called cheating in moderation.

Because if you can learn how to cheat in moderation, then you’re more likely to enjoy being on your diet as you can essentially ‘have your cake and eat it too’.

Now when I mean “in moderation” – I mean feeling totally guilt free about having something naughty to eat every now and then. For example, you could make Sundays the day that you allow yourself some dessert after dinner. (After all … dessert is meant to be a treat anyway, not a daily part of our routine).

So just remember, a diet made up entirely of healthy whole foods will certainly enhance your chances of leading a long and healthy life.

But a diet with mostly healthy foods plus a few splurges every now and then – will help ensure you lead a fairly long, healthy and happy life.

And one that includes chocolate chip cookies as well!