Health & Wellness Articles

How to Work the Third Shift and Stay Healthy

Tips on Sleep, Nutrition and At-Work Activities

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The third shift. Unavoidable for some. Dreaded by many. At a time when it’s difficult just to stay awake, you are expected to function at a reasonable level. Unfortunately, laboring through the night can wreak havoc on your body, weakening your immune system and causing a destructive decrease in energy. It’s difficult for the body’s internal clock to adapt to shift work, and laboring through the night often causes insomnia and indigestion. It becomes even trickier if you have to switch between day and night shifts. So, if you are one of the millions of people that work the third shift, check out our healthy tips to combat the damage it can do to your body.

It’s often the hardest element to "get right" if you are working late. Your body is ready to crash halfway through the shift, but when you return home your family is up and about. Spending quality time with them often stands in the way of enough sleep, and it’s almost impossible to choose between the two. What can you do?

Sleep is one of the most important gifts you can give your body. But you are fighting your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle by staying up through the night, and sleep loss can be dangerous. Even if you are sleeping during the day instead of the night, you still need an average of eight hours to keep your body functioning properly. It’s important to make this a continuous eight hours, too.

Often, third shift workers break up their sleep in order to spend more time with loved ones and do activities that they enjoy. Of course, this is key to a happy life and positive relationships, but it keeps your body from going through the proper sleep cycles, rotating from light to deep sleep. If you are sleeping for a few hours in the morning and then an hour or so before work, your body will not be rested enough and ready for the next shift.
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About The Author

Liz Noelcke Liz Noelcke
Liz is a journalist who often writes about health and fitness topics.

Member Comments

  • I work 7p-7a at a local hospital. Being up nights and sleeping days is not an issue, since I seem to have a natural rhythm for the night cycle. I've had to start hitting the gym or working out before work. Thankfully, my gym is right across the street and connected to the hospital complex. I also stop caffeine by 3am so I can sleep, and my bedroom has blackout curtains. My problem at work is eating. Our cafeteria has really good food, as well as having a Subway and a grill on site. - 4/25/2016 9:18:07 AM
  • The exact cause or origin of Narcolepsy is not known nor is there a known cure for this kind of Hypersomnia. Narcolepsy can be treated for symptoms like after you buy Modvigil 200 mg from and take for wakefulness and alertness for more than eight hours and luckily enough this medication is free from any severe or dangerous side effects - 3/31/2016 1:25:00 AM
  • Working nights as a nurse wasn't an issue as I'm a natural night owl. What the issue was working split shifts, working shifts that had no rhythm and working overtime shifts. Those killed me. When I worked in a hospital with a consistent shift schedule change and stayed on one shift for a minimum of 2 weeks, working nights was a breeze. - 11/18/2015 10:20:27 PM
    I work third at a heldpdesk support line. I eat heavy protien, and complex carbs for my " breakfast " and snack lightly on mixed vegetables, apples,and oranges through out the night. On my breaks and 30mins interverles , I do 10 push ups, 30 second plank, and 10 more to keep my mind and body moving. I try not to stay sitting too long else it's a **** to get started again.! - 6/17/2015 11:57:56 PM
  • SLICKJ03
    I'm working 5pm-8am or later every weekday and sundays 9pm-8am or later. I'm losing an awful amount of weight because I don't have time to eat, much less exercise. I'm also losing my mind I think. I'm on my feet all day running around like a chicken with its head cut off so I guess it's enough exercise? I'd really like to get more weight on me again tho. Should I try ankle weights or something? - 10/13/2014 9:14:40 AM
  • PWEBER31
    I'm about a month into my night schedule and the hardest part is sleeping consistently. I find myself waking up a lot before I'm supposed to be up. I read another article today that offered some great tips that I'm going to try: http://worknights
    t-shift-sleep-tips/ - 10/10/2014 7:14:27 PM
  • Getting a good night sleep is critical for my wife who is a nurse and does night shifts. Black out blinds have been a huge help. They completely cut out the daylight and trick her body into thinking it is night.

    We founds a great deal on blinds from this site:

    ps-night-shift-workers/ - 7/8/2014 4:00:24 PM
    I work 1130pm-730am Thurs, 830pm-730am Fri, 1130pm-730am Sat, 730pm-730am Sun. Hardest part for me is missing my family. And now that we are getting closer to summer, being able to spend time outside. I try to be in bed by 10am at the latest. Then wake between 330pm-530pm so I can fix dinner for my son, visit a bit, get ready for work and on the late start nights, I will try to lay down for an hour or so before work. I stay on this schedule on my days off. I tried flipping to a day schedule on days off and it was terrible! I need to keep on my work schedule all week to get any sleep at all. - 5/3/2014 5:00:20 AM
    I work two jobs one being full time and the other being part time. The full time job is physically demanding to a degree and the secondary job is mentally demanding as well as potentially time consuming.

    Over the past couple of months I've been using Neuro Force - Adrafinil, an over the counter drug that is the precursor to Modafinl (provigil/nuvigil
    ) that is prescribed to overnight workers and to help combat jet lag.

    I've found Adrafinil to be extremely beneficial and I would recommend it to anyone who doesn't get enough rest or who has to work long/odd hours. You can find out more about Adrafinil online at either wikipedia or at
    s-adrafinil/ - 3/31/2014 10:20:09 PM
    I delivery papers ( yes people still read them!), starting at 2am untill 6 am. Trying to find time to anything or eat correctly is hard. Let alone finding time to exercise! I think I have put on 25 pounds since starting at the start of the year, bleh ! - 10/23/2013 7:00:04 PM
  • I work the 3rd shift and I firmly believe that in order to be successful at it, one MUST be disciplined! I work from home. I get off at 6am. I brush my teeth,use the bathroom, and take my night time meds and go down immediately. I must do so in order to be up in the afternoon when my daughter is home from school. Works perfect for me!! - 10/7/2013 9:32:40 PM
  • I work 830p-7a. I wake up at 5pm to cook dinner (left overs are usually my lunch) for the fam, and I go to bed at 9 am. If I stay up as late as 10am (and see daylight), I won't sleep. Oddly enough, when I get off work at 7am, I go for a run and it DOES NOT keep me up. If fact, run days are the days i sleep the best. I guess I am winding downin the shower, so by the time I am in bed at 9, my body just relaxes and I am asleep within minutes which is something I never did before I started nights.

    I can't run when I wake up. No time, no energy - 7/23/2013 6:38:54 AM
  • I worked full time night shifts for 12 years. I made them work for me. I packed my own foods so that I wasn't snacking on goodies at work. Went home at 0715 in the morning. Did quiet stuff to wind myself down. I was in bed by 10am at the latest. My room was totally dark by blocking all the light from the windows. I had a humidifier or fan running while I slept to be my "white noise" and block out all the day noises outside and inside my house. I slept until 5 or 6pm. Then spent the evening with my significant other. He would go to bed after sending me off to work. I enjoyed my snoring to wake me up and I got to sprawl all over the whole bed:)

    After all those years they changed our rotations so now I'm on days/evenings. Having a hard time adjusting to being a day - 7/18/2013 8:45:31 PM
    For the last two years, Iíve worked 10P-6A. The secret to success is not trying to live a normal daylight life on your days off. If you canít manage it, find another shift because you will never feel good/be right. I get home from work around 6:40Am and I stay up and do my regular things (grocery shopping, TV, etc.) and then I get to bed around 11AM and sleep soundly until 7PM. Wake up and have a small breakfast and coffee and shower and prepare for work. Lunch around 1:00 AM and itís my biggest meal of the day.
    I snack from that point on. Bowl of instant oatmeal, fruit, something like that after work. - 7/6/2013 1:20:32 PM
    I work 3 to 4 12 hour shifts ( 7 pm-7am) each week. I usually get 4 hours sleep after work. I usually work on Mondays, Wednesdays , Fridays, and Saturdays. Every Saturday morning, I have to take a sleep aid so I can get 6 hours of sleep prior to working a Saturday night shift. I get very cranky when I don't get my 6 hours, then I get very sleepy by 3 a.m. I take my break at that time and I go up and down the stairs for 15-20 minutes. It usually perks me up then. I have no problem sleeping on my days off. When I feel sleepy, I stop what I'm doing and take long naps. I don't force myself to sleep because I will just toss and turn and not get any rest. I'm usually alone in the daytime-- my hubby is at work, and my son is in school. The dog-- I have to walk with him or he will be barking all day. - 3/11/2013 4:02:28 PM

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