10 Tips for Evening and Night Workers

Healthy eating
work desk illuminated by a lamp

Maintaining healthy eating habits despite working evening or night shifts is crucial for preserving your well-being and health. Working outside the circadian rhythm, also known as the "biological clock," poses challenges such as sleep quality, social life, and nutrition. These challenges can lead to changes in appetite, digestion, weight, and even cause certain health problems like high blood pressure. To help you maintain healthy eating habits, here are some tips and tricks:

1. Stick to the habit of eating three balanced meals a day

It's important to consume three balanced meals a day, including vegetables, meats and alternatives, as well as starches. However, it's recommended to follow a specific meal distribution when working evening or night shifts. Try to have your heaviest meal outside of working hours, usually during dinner. During the night, opt for a light meal. Before going to bed, have a moderate-sized breakfast to facilitate the transition to sleep.

2. Plan ahead with light meals for work and healthy snacks

Prepare light meals to take with you to avoid succumbing to the high-fat, high-sugar, and high-salt foods typically found in vending machines or fast food chains. For example, you can prepare a chicken wrap accompanied by raw vegetables and hummus, and pair it with yogurt. For snacks, here are some healthy and easy-to-carry ideas: an apple and nuts, grapes and light cheese, crackers with tuna salad.

3. Stay hydrated sufficiently

It's essential to stay hydrated throughout your work shift. Keep a water bottle within reach at all times. Take regular sips of water, even before feeling thirsty. Prioritize water as your main beverage and limit your coffee intake to two or three cups per day to avoid disrupting the quality of your sleep by consuming too much caffeine. Avoid carbonated drinks and energy drinks.

4. Establish a support program for employees working evening or night shifts

Implementing a specific support program for employees working evening or night shifts in your workplace is beneficial. This program could include information about nutrition and tips for making healthy food choices. It could also have a positive impact on the work environment by improving the available food options. Additionally, it's easier and more enjoyable to follow these recommendations when you have the opportunity to apply them as a group.

By implementing these few tips, you can maintain healthy eating habits despite your atypical work schedule. Remember that the key lies in planning, preparation, and being mindful of your food choices. Here are some additional tips to help you:

5. Favor nutritious foods

Opt for foods that are rich in essential nutrients, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and sources of healthy fats. Avoid processed foods that are high in added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. Prioritize fresh foods and prepare your meals at home as much as possible.

6. Avoid heavy meals before bed

Steer clear of heavy, high-fat meals right before going to bed. These meals can disrupt your digestion and affect the quality of your sleep. Instead, opt for light and easily digestible meals a few hours before bedtime.

7. Manage caffeine intake

Excessive caffeine consumption can disrupt your sleep, especially if you work at night. Limit your caffeine intake and avoid consuming caffeinated beverages a few hours before bedtime. If you need an energy boost during your work shift, opt for low-caffeine alternatives like green tea or herbal teas.

8. Establish a regular sleep routine

Try to maintain a consistent sleep routine, even if you work evening or night shifts. Aim to go to bed and wake up at regular times to help your body adjust to your work schedule. Create a sleep-friendly environment by keeping your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet.

9. Exercise regularly

Regular exercise can help improve sleep quality, reduce stress, and maintain a healthy weight. Find time to exercise in your schedule, whether it's before or after your work shift. Choose activities that you enjoy and that are suitable for your fitness level.

10. Take regular breaks

When working evening or night shifts, it's important to take regular breaks to rest and recharge. Use these breaks to relax, have a balanced meal or snack, and hydrate yourself.

By following these tips, you'll be able to maintain healthy eating habits despite your atypical work schedule. Remember that every individual is unique, so adjust these recommendations according to your own needs and preferences. Taking care of your health and well-being is essential for optimal performance at work and a balanced life.

References

Bonnell, E., Huggins, C., Huggins, C., McCaffrey, T., Palermo, C., & Bonham, M. (2017, 26 février). Influences on Dietary Choices during Day versus Night Shift in Shift Workers: A Mixed Methods Study. Consulté le 24 août 2020, à partir de https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5372856/
Dietitians of Canada. Dix conseils d'alimentation pour les travailleurs de quarts (10 Nutrition Tips for Shift Workers). In: Practice-based Evidence in Nutrition® [PEN]. (2016, 26 septembre). Consulté le 24 août 2020. Disponible à partir de https://www.pennutrition.com/viewhandout.aspx?Portal=UbY=&id=JMDpXgM=&P…. Accès seulement avec abonnement. Cliquer sur s’inscrire sur la page de connexion de PEN.
Phoi, Y., & Keogh, J. (2019, 23 septembre). Dietary Interventions for Night Shift Workers: A Literature Review. Consulté le 24 août 2020, à partir de https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6836085/
Travail en rotation : Réponses SST. (2020, 24 août). Travail en rotation : Réponses SST. Consulté le 24 août 2020, à partir de https://www.cchst.ca/oshanswers/ergonomics/shiftwrk.html

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist