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How to Work the Night Shift: Stay Healthy and Productive

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

If you’re going to be working a night shift for the first time, you should get used to the idea of having to adjust your routine. Working the night shift is something you should expect to do at some point in your career.

Having an idea of what it’s like to work at night will help you decide whether or not a job of this type is suited for you. Here, we’ll define “night shift,” explain how to be ready for it, and offer some advice on how to work, a night shift.

What is a night shift?

If you work in a hospital, nursing home, workplace, school, or factory beyond regular business hours, you are on a night shift. In a 24-hour operation, the night shift is the period of time between 10 p.m. and midnight, and 6 a.m. and 8 a.m.

A closing shift could also be the last shift of the day. Be sure to verify and ask about the shift schedule before applying for a job that requires nighttime employment.

The night shift goes by many different names in the workplace. When a company has many shift choices, they may divide them into early morning and evening shifts.

Warnings about the night shift

Daily activity and rest are regulated by the circadian rhythm that is hardwired into every human being. This acts as our internal “alarm clock,” telling us roughly when we should get up and go to bed each day. Furthermore, this routine aids in controlling our appetite, perspiration, and heart rate.

Working night shifts is dangerous because it interferes with the body’s circadian system and causes people to sleep less than they need to.

Heart disease, diabetes, and extra weight are just some of the problems that can arise when people don’t take care of themselves properly. Do you think of yourself as somebody who cares about their health? Then you must give your emotional and physical well-being top priority if you want your body to flourish.

Related: How to Prevent Burnout: Everything You Need to Know

Planning for the night shift

Night shifts are common in fields like emergency services, security, retail, food service, travel, customer assistance, manufacturing, hospitality, and the medical industry. You should become used to working the night shift if it’s not something you’re used to doing already. If you want to get ready, here are some suggestions:

Maintain a regular schedule.

Maintaining a consistent wake-up and sleep schedule, even on your days off, can have positive effects. If you work the night shift, you may be at risk for shift work sleep disorder (SWSD), a condition characterized by disruptions in your natural sleep-wake cycle that can lead to insomnia and daytime sleepiness.

Circadian refers to something that repeats itself every 24 hours. What you’re describing is your natural pattern of sleeping and waking. The circadian rhythms help your body’s internal clock determine when it’s time for bed and when it’s time to get up. This usually happens at the same time every day.

Sunlight exposure helps “set” your clock and maintain a timing pattern that is somewhat consistent with the day/night cycle.

Minor health effects, such as disturbed sleep or daytime weariness, can result from occasional circadian disturbance. Constant disturbance, however, has been linked to Type 2 diabetes and other malignancies. It has been linked to lowered immunological function, cognitive impairment, excess weight gain, and accelerated aging.

In order to get back on a regular sleep schedule after working overnights all week, it may be helpful to sleep in the morning and then keep yourself busy until a more reasonable hour of sleep at night.

In the next several days, make sure to get in some good nap time. Stay up as late as you can on your last free night, and then sleep in and maybe even take a nap before starting your first night shift.

Create a regular bedtime routine.

Consistent sleep is essential for preparing your body for the long hours of a night shift. A nurse or fireman who likes to snooze before work might find that sleeping from 6 to 10 in the morning and again between 2 and 4 in the afternoon is the most effective way to recharge before heading out on duty. If you can’t function on three hours of sleep per day, try snoozing from six in the morning till twelve.

Take caffeine moderately.

Coffee and tea are essential for keeping up the energy to get through the night and do what needs to be done. It’s important to remember to drink moderately so you don’t pass out in the middle of your shift. If you have trouble sleeping at home, it’s best to quit drinking coffee around 2 or 3 in the morning.

Eat Well.

Sugary and trans-fat-laden foods can disrupt sleep and make it uncomfortable to eat during the night shift by spiking insulin and creating gastrointestinal distress. Salads, fruits, vegetables, and trail mix are great examples of healthy foods to bring along as snacks or whole meals in case you get hungry.

Meal preparation at the beginning of the week will put you ahead of the game. This will save you time during the week as you won’t have to spend as much time getting ready or coming up with nutritious meals on the go.

Remember to drink plenty of water.

If you want to stay alert and focused throughout your shift, it’s important to keep your fluid intake high. Water is essential to the normal functioning of our bodies, therefore this also helps to make sure that everything is operating as it should be.

Related: 10 Warning Signs of Employee Burnout & How to Prevent It

Regular exercise.

If you want to feel more alert and prepared for night shifts, working out regularly during the work week is a must. It can be tough to get to the gym if you’re a truck driver who spends your nights driving hundreds of miles. Explore the great outdoors and get your heart pumping with some simple activities like biking or hiking.

Consolidate nighttime shifts.

Consecutive night shifts may help you adjust to the shift work schedule. In addition, if you work as a police officer or security guard, you can enjoy the daytime hours on your days off.

Stay away from the booze.

If you use alcohol to get to sleep faster, it will interfere with the quality of sleep you obtain after work. While alcohol may help you fall asleep, it may have a negative effect on your REM sleep, which will affect how rested you feel when you wake up.

Observe the speed limits, rest before driving, and keep a clear head when behind the wheel.

Do not get behind the wheel if you know you will be too tired to function after work.

Think about taking public transit, or hitching a ride with a fellow night owl at the office. If neither of those is an option, you should hail a cab. Stay awake at the wheel. Get home in one piece and recharge for tomorrow’s shift.

The break time is a good opportunity for a quick nap. If you decide to do this, make sure to use a timer on your phone to alert you when your break is ended. A snooze could make the trip home less dangerous.

Engage in physical activities to increase wakefulness.

Do some light jogging if you feel sleepy. Try taking the stairs if you’re able, or get up and move to some music if you have it. Pick out a workout that won’t keep you from your desk, but will still get your blood pumping.

Make the most of your free time.

It’s only normal to want to do something exciting with the time you have on your days off. However, bear in mind that you should strive to establish a fairly steady routine so that you don’t have to shift your work schedule too often.

Communicate with your family regularly.

Sharing living quarters with others? Make sure they know your job pattern so they may arrange their living quarters to fit your need for a certain amount of sleep. In order to maintain your time together, you might also arrange to eat meals together in advance.

Interrupt your work with naps.

Make the most of your downtime by squeezing in a snooze or two. This will keep you awake and able to concentrate all night long. Take 30 minutes to rest in complete silence and darkness.

Related: Productivity Crash Course

Take care of yourself.

Negative effects on one’s mental health have been linked to working night shifts. Putting in the time and effort to meditate, practice yoga, or engage in other forms of therapy can help you maintain a strong connection to yourself and your emotions.

Plan a bedroom for restful sleep.

When bedtime finally arrives, you’ll want to make sure you’re in the ideal setting to fall asleep fast and peacefully. Put up the shades to keep out the light, and put down the phone or turn off the TV.

Reduce blue light exposure.

The blue light emitted by electronic gadgets disrupts the body’s natural production of melatonin and other hormones that help you sleep. If you want to get the most out of your night’s sleep, you should avoid stimulating activities like using a smartphone or watching TV for long periods of time.

Maintain body heat.

Your body has a built-in thermostat that causes your core temperature to rise during the day and fall during the night to conserve energy. Whether it’s night or day, you may sleep soundly with the help of a blanket and a fan.


Stopping for frequent, brief walks during your shift will not only keep you from dozing off but will also keep your blood pumping efficiently. Just getting up and moving around every hour or so will do wonders for your mental and physical health.

Create a community.

If you’re considering working the night shift, it can be helpful to speak with other professionals or visit discussion boards where individuals have shared their experiences and recommendations.

You may talk about the ways in which your own healthy routines have helped you adjust to your new job, and perhaps pick up some useful pointers from others in the process.

Make an effort to soak up some sun.

Vitamin D deficiency is associated with decreased bone health and calcium levels, making night shift workers a particularly vulnerable population. When you wake up, let some sunlight in by opening your curtains or going for a walk outside.

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