Career | Can you cope with shift work?

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Shift work can impact everything from your diet to sleep pattern and mood. Adjusting your body to your new schedule is vital to ensure you maintain positive health and well being.

As with all changes in your life, your body naturally reacts. Working through the night or having to endure split shifts, as such, can have a detrimental effect on your body.

It takes some time for your body to get used of such a big change. Therefore, it is important to get the right pattern and practices from the start.

Your sleep pattern is obviously the first thing that will be impacted by shift work. Most adults need seven to eight hours sleep a day and so it’s important to identify a sleep schedule to best suit your needs. Keeping a diary can help you find the most suitable strategies and conditions for a better quality of sleep.

For example, if coming off night shifts, have a short sleep and go to bed earlier that night. Find a sleep schedule and stick to it!

Before you start shift work, give your body a three-day warning. Postpone your bedtimes and rise earlier each day before you break into a new routine.

Digestive problems are common in shift workers due to disruption of the body clock and poor diet. Plan your meals to help you stay alert at work and to relax/sleep when you need to rest.

Avoid sugary and fatty foods as these only provide a short-term energy boost. Regular light meals/snacks are less likely to affect alertness or cause drowsiness than a single heavy meal.

An unhealthy lifestyle combined with shift work may increase the likelihood of sleep disorders and sleep loss or exacerbate existing sleep problems.

Aim to spend at least 30 minutes a day on physical activity, and try to cut down or give up smoking and reduce your alcohol intake.