Health & Wellness Articles

How to Work the Third Shift and Stay Healthy

Tips on Sleep, Nutrition and At-Work Activities

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Nutrition
Eating healthy when your timetable seems so backwards is difficult. To maintain a nourishing diet, it’s vital to adjust your meal routine around your schedule. Do not skip meals. To avoid pumping in empty calories from vending machines or fast food, plan ahead. It is easy to eat to pass the time, but you’ll gain weight this way. Bring a healthy meal with you to work.

Here are more nutritional tips:
  • Don’t eat a huge meal right at the end of your shift. It will just sit in your stomach as you try to sleep, leading to trouble digesting as well as disrupted slumber. Your body will have difficulty burning these extra calories and they can turn to fat.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout your shift. Dehydration can cause cramps and headaches, which can make your shift very unpleasant.
  • Fuel up on complex carbs; these will release energy slowly over a long period of time, versus quick sugar bursts that won't last too long. Also, protein will fuel your muscles throughout the night.
  • Time your meals and activities to match your "day."
It might seem like survival of the fittest. You are falling asleep standing one night, while your co-worker trots cheerily along. What gives? What is he doing that’s making him better equipped to handle the third shift? It probably has less to do with superhuman powers than you might think.

Here are some tricks that will make the time go by more easily:
  • On-the-job exercise can boost your alertness. If you have an extra break where you can get in a few minutes of a good workout, take advantage! If you can’t exercise at work, try doing it at other times. This will create better daytime sleep. A word of caution: Don’t work out right after you get home, before going to sleep. It will wake you up and make snoozing difficult. Try working out before you go to work instead.
  • Exposure to bright light will also improve your alertness. Obviously, if it’s dark out, this can’t come from a natural source. Turn on the lights!
  • Music helps to break up the monotony of a long shift. If you are allowed, bring in your own music. Use fast-paced sounds to pump you up when you are dragging towards the end of the shift.
  • Missing your family? Include scheduled time when you can call them, maybe right when they get up in the morning or before their bedtimes. Also, try keeping a bulletin board in your house where you can leave or receive messages. Write them notes, and they’ll return the favor.
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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

  • 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
    hift.com/nigh
    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:

    http://shadewor
    kswindowfashi
    ons.ca/sleep-
    expert-top-ti
    ps-night-shift-workers/ - 7/8/2014 4:00:24 PM
  • JUDYGAYLE59
    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
  • DBOSWORTH31
    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 https://www.smart
    drugsforthoug
    ht.com/what-i
    s-adrafinil/ - 3/31/2014 10:20:09 PM
  • ALEXKATT
    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 day-sleeps...no 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 person...lol - 7/18/2013 8:45:31 PM
  • BMUNSEN
    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
  • JGMARIE80
    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
  • LUES408
    I have been reading some of the articles in here and one thing that is most common is that most of you wake up at 3 or 4pm. I work the 3rd shift (11pm-07am) and I find it difficult to workout. The eating part I can manage but working out is the hardest. A normal day for is getting off work at 7am, going to bed at 730-745am, going to pick up my boy from preschool at 1230, napping with him from 230-5pm and then going to bed at 8 or 830pm to 10pm to start the day again. No wonder I feel so exhausted. I have done this for 3 years now but it seems that itís getting harder on my body now. No wonder I donít want another child  itís so difficult and with todayís economy itís too much. I feel better now that I wrote this down for the time being. The schedule is hard but I love the time I spend with my family. - 10/3/2012 5:50:05 AM
  • JOE_PUBLIC_999
    Go to sleep right after work? No, that sucks.

    Day shift comes home after work, stays up, goes to bed later, gets up in the morning to go to work.

    I work 3rd, and I try to mimic that as best as I can. I go home and do whatever anyone else might do in their evening, then I go to bed around 2pm, and then get up in time to get ready to go to work.

    My main problem is that I have to shift every week back and forth between being up at night and sleeping in the day for work, and then being up during the day and sleeping at night for my days off, since thats the only time I can spend with my son, and I'm not going to keep him up at night. - 9/22/2012 2:16:34 AM
  • thanks for some of the great advise given from this article. i hope to apply these tips to my daily schedule. - 8/16/2012 6:24:13 PM
  • I work from 10pm-6am at a state prison. It's very hard to find a balance between exercise; and a semi healthy diet. What I found to that helps me maintain or lose weight is.

    Bed time around 730am no breakfast
    wake-up around 330-430 depending
    Dinner around 645 with a meat, veggie, brown rice, or whole wheat bread if possible
    snack around 11 possible a banana or peanut butter crackers
    meal around 115. Either left over from dinner or a healthy choice steamers, yogurt, or fruit. Try to stay away from high fat t.v dinners, or high fat meals. To drink a 20oz powerade for energy i normally sweat a lot to help replace minerals
    snack around 330-4 something random beef jerkey; turkey jerkey or something along those lines.

    I take 3 bottles of spring water with me, along with a 20-32oz powerade with me. I normally don't get breakfast unless it's my weekend my days off are Sunday/ Monday. That's becasue on Sundays I normally attend church so i eat something to help me though when I would normally be sleeping. I try to stay away from fast food breakfast. NO CAFFEINE WHILE AT WORK. Or if I need caffeine a small 12oz can around 10 while waiting to go in. - 7/17/2012 6:34:53 AM

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