Written by Neha Chandna - Dietician, Nutrition Educator, Exercise Counselor with an M.Sc. in Dietetics and Food Service Management from SVT. She has worked with corporates such as HDFC and Standard Chartered as well as BPOs and MNCs on the Right ways of eating and living!
Gone are the days when our parents worked 9 to 5 and came back home to us early, following a routine that is desired by the body and mind. Advancement in many fields, international opportunities, competition, inflation, and an ambitious attitude has pushed us to work through day and night to achieve our goals. Be it a call centre, hospital, aviation, or an MNC, night shifts are very common nowadays.
Research says that night shifts can disrupt your body's sleep-wake cycle, known as circadian rhythm. Our body is naturally programmed to sleep and rise with the sun. Forcing yourself to stay up all night and be alert at work the next day can be quite challenging. Also, the metabolic rate of your body naturally slows down at night. Providing the right nutrition to be alert and active hence becomes the most crucial aspect.
People working at night tend to weigh more or have a higher body fat percentage. Some also suffer from constipation, acidity, and ulcers, etc. due to various reasons like:
- No time to exercise
- Too tired to exercise
- Meetings and deadlines
- Altered food timings
- Eating wrong foods in wrong quantities
- Vending machines, junk, sodas, chips, and fast foods, which are the only options easily available in the canteen area
- Unwanted mid-meal snacking out of boredom
If you want to excel at your work, be productive, and be healthy as well, you need put in that extra effort. Here are a few health guidelines for the night-shift workers:
- Since your day starts at night, try to eat your dinner between 8pm and 10pm before you leave for work or carry a tiffin along with you. Make sure you include a good amount of salad and whole grains like wheat, brown rice, ragi, etc. in your meal to keep yourself full for a good 2-3 hours.
- Fill in your mid meals every 2-3 hours with healthy high-fibre snacks like fruits, nuts, roasted chivdas, khakras, roasted puffed rice (kurmura), etc. to keep your metabolism active, and prevent hunger pangs and weight gain.
- The most common issue people face while working at night is drowsiness, for which you need to include protein-rich foods in your meals, like eggs, chicken, low-fat cheese, peanut butter, low-fat fruit, yoghurt, etc. These keep you alert and focused unlike carb loaded foods like potato, rice, cereals, etc., which have a sedating and relaxing effect making you feel sleepy.
- Avoid sugary foods like sweets, chocolates, cakes, etc., because the body's ability to process sugar declines at night thus easily converting it into fat. You also have to avoid fried foods like chips, burgers, vada pav, french fries, etc., which will surely increase the fat in your body.
- Stop visiting the cafeteria too often so that you don't get tempted to pick up the wrong foods. Though carrying food from home may sometimes be a tedious affair, it is definitely a safer bet.
- Drink water liberally. Even in the air-conditioned atmosphere, you lose moisture from your skin, and that will leave you tired and fatigued affecting your work capacity. So keep a bottle of water on your desk and drink regularly. Remember that beverages like coffee and tea dehydrate you, so limit their intake. Have buttermilk, green tea, or lemon juice instead.
- Snacking for entertainment must be avoided. Instead, to keep your muscles active and feel alert, take a short break, stretch, climb some stairs, do breathing exercises, etc.
- After you get back home, have a light snack before you sleep. A glass of milk with poppy seeds or a bowl of oats porridge can give you a sound sleep.
- Make sure you sleep for 4-5 hours at a stretch to wake up feeling refreshed. Any kind of disturbance in sleep can affect the later part of your day, making you feel drowsy and sluggish.
- Try incorporating at least 30-35 minutes of exercise everyday, be it brisk walking, swimming, jogging, weight training, dancing, etc. to help reduce your fat percentage, improve blood circulation and immunity, and prevent sedentary lifestyle issues such as obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, etc. The best time to do it is after waking up and before leaving for work. Try to regularize your sleep and meal timings to that of your body clock for maximum health benefits.
In the entire bargain to make a living, don't forget to live life. Listen to music, go for a long drive, meet friends, watch a movie, and do all that makes you happy.