If you are a shift worker, you are just one of millions of people who makes up 3.2 percent of America’s workforce. Shift-based jobs can take many different forms - from truck drivers, to factory workers, to police officers, to bar staff. These types of shifts are referred to in popular culture as the 'graveyard shift'. This doesn't mean to say that your job is boring, or that you don't enjoy it. In fact, one of the reasons people take shift work is because they simply love the job that they do. In these instances, working unsociable hours is a sacrifice they are happy to take. But even in this scenario, shift work can be extremely demanding, especially if you have a family. Chances are, you will need to be asleep when your family are awake, and vice versa. This makes it extremely difficult to lead a 'normal' life - plus you are likely to feel a significant effect on your health. But, shift work can be coped with - as long as you know how to handle it.
Don't just turn to the coffeeWhen you're feeling groggy on a night shift, the first thing most of us would do is turn to the caffeine. Whilst a small amount of caffeine can help us feel more alert for a period of time - whether in coffee or energy drink form - too much can be detrimental. Making a habit of regular caffeine intake on your night shift can mean that you are constantly lunging between being on a caffeine 'high' and the dreaded 'slump'. This can be dangerous for your mental health and your heart rate too. Plus, drinking coffee too close to the end of you shift might mean you struggle to sleep when you get in - not ideal for someone who has to to back at work in 12 hours.
Implement a positive sleep plan
If you have been doing shift work for a while now, you may be showing symptoms of shift work sleep disorder. Signs of this disorder include a lack of energy, problems concentrating and irritability. There is no official 'cure', but there are a lot of things you can do to make life easier for yourself whilst undertaking shift work. Firstly, as you will be sleeping during the daytime, it is vital that you have blackout blinds in your home, to make the room as dark as possible. Get rid of anything that might distract you from your slumber, such as your phone or your doorbell (everything except smoke/intruder alarms). Make your bedroom into a relaxing den that you know will be able to help you drift off to sleep, and learn your sleep triggers. Reading, or listening to soft music often helps people get to sleep quicker.
Try and stay healthy
Staying healthy whilst working night shifts can be a challenge in itself. But, if you choose to take up the challenge, you will probably feel a lot better for it. Adopting a diet high in proteins and complex carbs will help you stay alert on the job. It is also best to eat smaller, more frequent meals rather than large, infrequent ones. This is because eating a lot in one go can often make you feel lethargic. Make sure you drink plenty of water too, to avoid dehydration, and if you can, get regular bursts of fresh air. The night shift might be a challenge, but with a bit of extra knowledge, there's no reason why you can't ace it.