Member Comments for the Article:

How to Work the Third Shift and Stay Healthy

Tips on Sleep, Nutrition and At-Work Activities

67 Comments



  • VIRGOSUN68
    I have been working the "grave yard" shift for almost three years. My sleep schedule is crazy at times, espeically when school is in. I try and get to bed when I get home, but sometimes I am just too wired. It usually takes me about an hour to unwind. Then trying to stay asleep, may it be the testing of the sirens on monday's, the garbage truck on thursday's, or my neighbor mowing her lawn twice a week.ugh, but I wake, and then quickly go back to sleep. I have black curtains, so my room is dark 24 hours a day. But my real issue is the eating. I have gained about forty pounds in the past four years, ten pounds a year, ugh!, but I can not get a good schedule for eating down. On my days off, it is the "normal" eating schedule, so I get thrown off. Has anyone found a good way to stick to a eating plan, that works mind you, for us, "the night owls".

    Oh by the way, law enforcement side of the house too...thank the criminals, these fools are our job security..lol - 7/16/2009 4:47:47 AM
  • Reading this one to the Hubby who works straight graves and trying to make it work for me too, my bar schedule swaps from two day shifts 8am to 5 pm to three 5pm-2 am shifts here on the 22nd for "summer hours" we're so not taking care of ourselves well when it comes to sleeping and working and all that goes with it though we're working on making changes to that. - 5/11/2009 11:11:51 AM
  • I also work in Law Enforcement, and these tips are great. I've been on nights for almost 7 years. What helps me most is standing during most of my shift, it lets me fidget and do simple stretches easier, which keep me awake and alert.

    While I have been pretty consistent about exercise and diet, I am frustrated that the lack of sleep (what my doctor calls 'quality' sleep) has made it difficult for me to lose any weight. I however, love the flexibility in my family life that working third shift gives. I won't do it forever, but for now it works. - 5/7/2009 1:47:38 AM
  • third shift law enforcement here - processing those prints! =-) After 13 years I literally gained 120 pounds!!! I have shed 10 now and had to completely change the food i eat. No pop, no candy bars, no salty snacks - fruit (lts of it), veggies, and oatmeal seem to be the best choices for when i an working. lots of salads with dinners and whole wheat bread are also the best changes i have made. It has gotten my whole family on the eating better swing. My three preteens are now slimmer themselves with none of the pudge that is typical of many of their school mates and we find we have a better time shopping! We eat such a variety of fruits now that it is a real treat to pick what we are eating that week. I finally had to break down and amass an excercise equipment arsenal as nothing is open around me at 5 am - so I now work out on my lunch - walking 2.5 miles a day, strenght training, and the stationary bike are really helping and I find since the excercising I drink less coffee and am far more alert. Now if they would only gear a Sparkdiet/excercise program for us night shifters/swing shifters...it is apparant we need a different set up then the rest of the world. - 3/10/2009 3:30:02 AM
  • I too work the graveyard shift, 9-7 for 3 years, however, I have recently had trouble being consistant with my workout routine. I use to live 5 mins away from a gym which was open 24 hours and on my days off I would wake up and hit the gym with no problem giving me at least 3 days a week to get some good workouts in. Over the last year, I had my days that I go into work at night, broken up randomly by various apointments during the day required by my job for me to attend. There are often times when I work a 10 hour shift and have to stay up an additon 5 to 8 hours after to attend, which is generally court appearences as I am a police officer, or staying after work for a call which last longer than my shift to take care of. This has really begun to wreck havoc on my sleep paterns. Some days I wake up 3 to 4 times during the day just because and other times, I crash for the whole day. I no longer live near a gym which is open 24 hours, which makes it even tougher to exercise on my days off if I cannot make it to the rec center near my house before they close. My biggest problem is getting to sleep right away when I get home because it takes a while for me to wind down ( equivilant to a 9 to 5ers evening). I would love to find advise on how to best change my hours so that I can get my body acustom to going to bed right away so that I can get up and work out before work. Since everything is so wacky with my sleep patterns, it's also affected my energy levels to even get a decent workout in when I do hit the gym. As a result of not being consistant with my workouts, I've gained back 18 pounds. I can still do my usual 45 mins of cardio and lift the weights WHEN i do get to the gym, but it's so random that I feel I'm not as in good of shape as I once was. Any advise would be helpful. - 1/28/2009 3:29:11 AM
  • I also work third shift from 10pm to 6am. I am totally confused on when to eat and when to work out. Currently I sleep from 7:00am to about 2-3:00 pm. I will then go to the gym and work out for :45 to 1:00 on the treadmill or bike. I then eat a pretty big meal at 6:00pm then I will nap from 7:30pm to 8:45. At work I try to eat a light meal at 12:30 am and a light snack before 3:30am. This seems to be working for me. - 1/24/2009 8:02:50 AM
  • Like a lot who posted here I work at a hospital as a switchboard operator also sunday to thursday from 11p-7am. I have been doing this for 4 years now and it has been a struggle to contain my eating. My problem is I am not sure how I should eat my meals. My day is normally pretty much the same starting on sunday......I start my day by getting my kids ready for the week doing things such as ironing clothes, packing lunches, and cooking dinner. I usually try to go back to sleep by 8pm and I sleep until 10pm. I then take my kids to my parents house to be back out the house by 1030pm at the latest. I get to work and I usually have a 16oz cup of coffee with 3 equals and some cream......but i have cut out coffee so I am now drinking tea instead. My problems comes once i am at work I usually get the snacking bug around 1-2am then I just want to eat any and everything around. Any suggestion would be very helpful should I try to eat every 2-3 hours or 3-4 hours.....Help me.....I have all ready changed the things that I am eating now I just need help as to when is the best time to eat. - 1/4/2009 8:43:32 AM
  • I also work as a switchboard operator at night(10-6)I try to eat around 2 or 3,side salad with strips of chicken breast,1piece of fruit,a cup of herbal tea and of course 1 glass of water.Before,I get off I either do a small bowl of oatmeal or a cup of lowfat yogurt with a handful of almonds.Mondays and Wednesdays are my class days 9am to 12n,then I sleep from 12:30 to 6,light dinner,tuna on wheat,then back to bed til 8:45.I do get up and move around my little work area.Dancing,side kicks,and marching in place.On Tuesdays,Thursdays and Fridays,I go to an afternoon Curves class to help me in reducing the spare tire around my midsection.(smile) - 11/10/2008 1:50:22 AM
  • These tips are good.I retired 8 years ago and started a new job last year at night.Starting on my journey to a healthy lifestyle in March and had difficulty in adjusting to when to eat at night and how much sleep during the day.I recently added a class during the day only 2 days a week.I will keep these tips to help me adjust. - 11/10/2008 1:30:30 AM
  • I am a DAY person, that happens to work the NIGHT SHIFT. I have spoken with fellow workers, who mostly cannot get enough sleep during the day, and work sleep deprived all the time. I could NEVER work with out a decent amount of sleep.

    Me, I have my rituals....I always have breakfast when I get home, and don't usually retire for about 2-3 hours after eating. I take 2 calcium tabs, and 1 magesium, also take valarian root for sleep, sometimes I will take a benadryl instead. When I sleep at night I take melatonin too, but not during the day.

    THEN, I have my sleep mask, Can't tolerate the windows being darkened, as my brain keeps waking me, and wondering what time it is... so the mask works best. I do NOT usually use ear plugs, unless the dog next door is out and barking.

    I get 6-7 hours of sleep before I work the next night. - 11/2/2008 11:45:50 PM
  • I work at a hospital that I work a 60-72 hour shift. I don't leave the hospital. I am often woke up every two hours. I have learned to control the eating during the night by drinking water but during the day is my downfall. The days I have had a broken up 3-4 hours of sleep and still have 20 hours to go....I EAT!! I often don't have time to eat a meal. I eat a fair amount of fruit because it is handy but I am more than lacking in the veggie department. I would love to have some eating advice as to high protein choices(not high carbs, that's what I choose) that are easy to eat on the run. Anyone have some suggestions? - 7/19/2008 11:10:34 PM
  • im a casual nurse and ive managed to loose over 20lbs by not snacking. I eat my meals with protien and veggies and 2 pieces of fruit a day whenever i want them for an meal and eat each meal 5-7 hours apart, seeing as im never able to eat at a normal time anyways. My fave ngiht shift meal that keeps me going is 75g of light cheddar a whole sliced red or green pepper and 5 or 6 rye crackers (finn crisps are my fave!) and its not so heavy that you are stuffed. that being said it was hard to break the snaking to stay awake habit but if u dont reach for snacks your insulin levels arnt peaking and dropping causing you to crash...try it at least 2 weeks to decide if it will work...was sceptical myself at first... but now i have more energy than ever! - 6/13/2008 8:43:32 AM
  • I work 7-7...7 days and 7 nights in a 4 week period. Sometimes I don't even know what day it is or if it's morning or night. Most of the time when I'm on nights I get 4-5 hours of sleep and by the 3rd or 4th night, I'm so tired that I don't have the energy to worry about what I'm eating or to exercise. I would really like to see more information that could help those of us "lucky" enough to work swing shift. =) - 5/22/2008 1:44:10 AM
  • My issue is altogether different. I work a swing shift where every day and every week my schedule is different. I have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep because I have to be at work at different hours each day! I enjoyed this article because even though it doesn't exactly speak to my problem, it addresses a growing problem with lots of people. - 4/28/2008 7:31:08 PM
  • DREAVER
    MOMMATAURUS I can relate all to well. I work 11pm to 7am sometimes 7 to 7 or 11 to 11
    Three to four days a week I have my grandchildren. I get them around 3pm and take them home on my way to work. When I get home in the mornings I make my husband breakfast and try to get our dinner started. A lot of crock pot meals. He also works third shift. So I am lucky to get 3 to 4 hours of sleep a day. I do find it hard to figure out my eating schedule since I am up almost 20 hours a day. And since I have started this shift 7 years ago I have gained at least 60 lbs. and am having a very hard time working with a diet. If anyone has any ideas on a good eating plan please let me know. Thanks - 4/20/2008 2:37:03 PM

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