Healthy Tips for Night Shift Workers

Doctor working in the laboratory on laptop.

Surviving the night shift is possible if you prepare properly and tend to your health

The emergency room nurse ready for late-night mishaps, the security guard patrolling your office space, the baker preparing your morning bagel – what do these people have in common? They work while the rest of us sleep, and hopefully, they sleep while the rest of us are awake. But for some night shift workers, it's not that simple. As they fight against a natural sleep schedule, they often face two problems: staying alert at work in the nighttime, and sleeping well at home in the daytime.
It's common that shift workers simply don't get enough quality sleep. "They fall into a bucket of chronic sleep deprivation," says Tina Waters, a sleep specialist with the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center. "And based on the research we've found on this, it can cause irritability, excessive daytime sleepiness, and ultimately, can increase one's chances of cardiovascular problems, such as heart attacks, high blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmia."
And in the short term, sleep problems among shift workers can cause mishaps. That sleep-deprived ER nurse may give out the wrong dosage; the overnight baker may drive home from work feeling drowsy.
But there are 24 hours in a day, and we need overnight nurses and security guards and bakers. And chances are, they need the work. So for shift workers, or those considering working overnight schedules, take the following expert advice:

Stick to your schedule. Even on days you don't work, continue to stay awake at night and sleep during the day. It's hard work to reprogram your system to do the opposite of what it's supposed to, and flipping to a conventional schedule can "wreak havoc" on the progress you've made, Waters says. "Anytime you lose or break routine, you might be battling to retain it again." Be as consistent as possible with your sleep schedule by waking up and going to bed at the same times each day.

Perfect your sleep hygiene. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is one of the many aspects of proper sleep hygiene, which is especially important for night shift workers who are fighting their own natural rhythm for daytime zzz's. Boost your odds for a good day's worth of sleep. For starters, make your room dark and quiet, which may be tough during the daytime. Try soundproofing your room, investing in light-blocking shades and turning off your phone.
Consider "strategic use of caffeine," as Waters puts it, meaning that while a cup of coffee on the way to work might provide some much needed pep, consuming caffeine toward the end of your shift might leave you sleepless once you get home. Try to wean off caffeine as your shift comes to an end. Avoid alcohol, too, as a way to fall asleep. "Sometimes there's a tendency to use alcohol as a sedative, but it's not good for sleep maintenance," says Eric Olson, co-director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "As it metabolizes, it actually has a rebound effect and wakes you up."

Lighten up. Light sends signals to our brains to be alert, which is partly why we're naturally more awake in the bright daytime and more sleepy in the dark nighttime. So at work, when you're expected to be alert, "the more light exposure you can get, the better you are," Waters says. If possible, simply turn on the lights in your office, she says, or purchase a light box, which is a small, portable device that emits artificial light.
While light is your friend at work, it's your enemy after your shift, as you try to wind down for sleep. "When night shift workers drive home in the morning light, their brain is getting mixed signals," Olson says. "On one hand, they're tired, because they have been up all night, so they have that drive to sleep. But they're concurrently getting that alerting stimulant from the morning sun." The solution? Olson and Waters suggest wearing sunglasses during the morning commute home.

Nap strategically. Ideally, night shift workers can rack up all their sleep during one block of the day, but sometimes it just doesn't happen. A well-timed nap, say an hourlong doze right before work, can help them stay alert throughout their upcoming shift, Olson and Waters say.

See a doctor if you're struggling. If you're making errors at work, falling asleep on your commute, having trouble sleeping or feeling concerned about additional health ailments, such as high blood pressure or depression, check in with your health care provider. You and your primary care provider or sleep specialist may discuss alternative methods for easing night shift work, such as prescription medicines or melatonin supplements. He or she may also look for other sleep issues, such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome.

Make it a family affair. As if reversing your sleep and wake schedule wasn't tough enough, night shift work can often put a on strain relationships and families. "How do you get there for your kids' games or performances or concerts when you should be sleeping or getting ready for work?" Olson asks. "Plus, if you're sleep deprived from this, you're probably in a crummy mood, so even if you're around, you may not be the person you or your family wants you to be, because you're bearing the brunt of poor quality sleep."
It's not just the person working the night shift who is affected by the unusual schedule, but often kids and partners as well.
Planning – and lots of it – is the best way for families to manage the effects of Mom or Dad working all night and sleeping all day, says David Kaplan, chief professional officer and past president of the American Counseling Association. First, plan to communicate. "We know that healthy families spend time talking to each other," Kaplan says, "but that can be very difficult when somebody's on the night shift. And it can be very easy for days and weeks go to by without talking to members of you family." Kaplan suggests families deliberately plan blocks of times to be in each other's company and talk.

Families also need to anticipate problems and plan ahead to solve them, Kaplan says. He suggests couples divvy up the responsibilities, such as cleaning the house, grocery shopping and taking kids to school. By mapping out these tasks in a more "equitable way," each person will share the weight, no matter which time of day he or she is working. Planning is also essential for physical and emotional intimacy, Kaplan says. Night shift workers can plan for and schedule moments of closeness with their kids, such as tucking them into bed, going to church as a family or assisting with homework. And Kaplan says couples with opposite sleep schedules should consider planning times to have sex.
"It's really the whole family on the night shift," he says.

11 health tips for women from healthcare experts

women's day
So its that day of the year when flowers, messages, little surprises will come your way to remind you to celebrate your day – women’s day. Girl you need no reminder, you can take on the world with pride and grace. This women’s day take a deep breath and pat yourself for your great work –  juggling all that you do. Just cherish being yourself and follow these quick, practical tips from our doctor experts at
Meet your gynecologist regularly: 
‘Its a bliss to see that women today are more educated, have career goals and are placed with high flying jobs. But the one aspect that they ignore is their health. A lot of women suffer from many lifestyles related troubles because they are neglecting their health. PCOD, breast cancer and other gynecological troubles are not just prevalent among the senior lot but it’s also mocking the young and talented women too. It’s important that women are given the right education to empower them with good health. Also many ignore the post partum health crisis which needs attention. So women should be more attentive to their own problems and reach out for help. Nothing can substitute the need of proper diet and exercise to be on the right track,’ Dr Shantala Vadeyar, Consultant obstetrician, fetal & maternal medicine, specialist, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital.
Learn about your vaccinations:  
‘If you wish to be a good mother, apart from juggling all your roles and trying hard to put your best foot forward, try and be healthy. That one aspect of your life will help you get the supermom status. Let’s also remind the grandmothers that their health is equally important as the other members of the family. Young women, middle aged ladies and our grannies all need to be more prompt with their health checkups. Remember vaccination is not only meant for babies, adults need them too. Check with your doctor about your health status and be regular with your immunization schedule. Being healthy is what will help you take on all challenges of life head on,’ says Dr Geetanjali Shah, Peadiatrician, Supraja foundation and Ashvini IVF center.
Control your family’s oral health from your kitchen: 
‘Women’s day should be celebrated not only just once a year but 365 days a year. In our Indian scenario the woman is the one responsible for the health and wellbeing of the family. She would be spending most of her time in her kitchen dishing out healthy and tasty food for the family. In fact it’s her kitchen from where she can start to take care of her family’s oral health too. Surprised to hear that? Well what you eat is what makes up for your oral health. A woman should choose food wisely, go with fresh produces and ingredients, modify your cooking style to keep the nutrition in food intact (use less oil, avoid deep frying, bake or grill your food) this will help up the oral health of the family. Instill the habit of brushing and flossing in your family and follow it diligently yourself. Never forget to keep smiling. If your smile needs any correction react out to a specialist and get a correction done. And you are ready to take on the world,’ Dr Suchetan Pradhan, Cosmetic, laser and implant dentist, Pradhan Dental Clinic. 
Give your eyes some attention:    
‘Your eyes have to put up with a lot of things – the wrath of age, stress, emotions and a whole other things. They also need requisite care and attention. If you think there isn’t much to worry about your eyes as you are still doing well without specks in this age of iphone, ipad and computers, just do yourself a favour, get a comprehensive eye examination done and do this at least every six months. Many eye related problems don’t really come with warning signals like glaucoma, which if untreated can lead to complete blindness. So beware and make a resolution this woman’s day to give your eyes the much needed TLC,’ Dr Sirisha Senthil, Head – VST Centre for Glaucoma Care, LV Prasad Eye Institute. Read more about eye diseases.
Look for options to freeze your motherhood if you want: 
‘In this day and age where women are equally armed with education, talent and skill like men to soar high in careers make a mark on the society usually its their biological clock that tries to ditch them. Where nature has been a little partial, modern reproductive technology comes to help. Women can now opt to freeze their eggs to postpone their plans to get pregnant early and also keep their fertility intact,’ Aniruddha Malpani, IVF specialist. Read more about egg freezing.
Be more adaptable: 
‘Every woman should know herself, believe in herself, ask for help when needed and learn to adapt to the ever changing ways of life. This isn’t a difficult task to achieve. Listen to your body and you will know exactly what you need to do to make calm within and be in sync with self. For instance many of our modern Indian women gives sleep a miss. Even if they are sleeping the required number of hours they aren’t doing it at a stretch. And then the nutrition requirement slips. Probably if a woman can work on these, much of her troubles can be solved. Remember you cannot control all that happens to you in life. Learn to adapt. Adapt to combat the stresses of your daily mundane activities. Always aim for happiness. Being happy should be your prime goal.’ Dr Syeda Ruksheda, Family psychiatrist and psychotherapist. 
Give oral care more importance: 
‘A woman goes through a lot of rigid and severe stages in life starting from hormonal changes, puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, lactation and menopause. All these factors have a direct impact on dental health. As a woman, one must give utmost importance to their oral health. Regular brushing, flossing, intake of vitamins, green leafy vegetables, fruits like apple and citrus fruits like orange should be continued. One must avoid having sugary food, smoking, alcohol and if consumed then must brush or gargle immediately so as to refrain from staining your teeth,’ Dr Karishma Jaradia, Aesthetic Dentist, Dentzz Dental care.
Enhance your beauty naturally: 
‘Women, care for your hair, because it’s the only way you can enhance your beauty naturally. Keep your hair as clean as possible. If in a hurry always remember to brush your hair and keep it neat, get rid of the tangles. Use a hair moisturizer or serum preferably a silicon based one to protect your hair from UV rays and other environmental pollutants. If you want to pamper your hair which you should, go for a hair spa once a month. The new hair spa treatment that’s doing the rounds these days is the Moroccan oil treatment which moisturizes your hair and makes it lustrous. Make your parlour appointment and pamper yourself, women it’s your day,’ Vikas Marwah, Celebrity hair stylist. 
Make your voice heard: 
‘Not many women know that their voice is not just a medium of communication, but it’s a combination of her thoughts and emotions that is expressed through words. It’s important for all women over the globe to understand that a good voice isn’t just nature’s gift but how you nurture it. Restraining from expressing has an adverse effect on the voice of the women. Another problem is that women would either restrain from expressing her emotions verbally while talking, or talk loudly to prove a point. In both these scenarios she is hampering her voice. What women should keep in mind is that while she talks she should relax, breathe from core and keep her spine erect. These simple steps will help her talk to world with confidence, give her thoughts the right shape and help her put her point across in a gentle yet firm manner,’ says Dr Sadhana Nayak, Voice medicine specialist and voice performance specialist.
Make it a point to eat healthy: 
 ‘Women need to pay more attention to their own diet and health too while taking care of the entire family. It’s time they stop the practice of putting family first. Remember you too are a part of it. So stop eating leftovers or stuff yourself with all the excess food of the day’s menu just because you don’t want to toss them. Prepare healthy food for yourself too; don’t starve yourself till the next meal. Include a lot of proteins in your diet. Make sure there is milk or dairy included. To keep up with your protein requirement have pulses during every meal. If you prefer non vegetarian food choose lean meat and eggs,’ Niti Desai, Consultant dietitian, Cumbala hills hospital.
Care for your mental health: 
‘A woman should not only take care of her physical being but her mental health also. Absence of mental illness doesn’t mean one is enjoying a good mental health. Eating right and exercising can help in this. The food you eat can have a direct effect on your energy level, physical health, and mood. By choosing foods that can give you steady energy, you can help your body stay healthy. This will also help your mind feel good. The same diet doesn’t work for every person. In order to find the best foods that are right for you, talk to your doctor. Some vitamins and minerals may help to fight symptoms of depression. Experts are looking into how a lack of some nutrients including folate, vitamin B12, calcium, iron, selenium, zinc, and omega-3 may contribute to depression in new mothers,’ Dr. Shreepad Khedekar, Clinical Director, Imperial Clinics.