Working a shift schedule that is not the same as a regular daytime work schedule can certainly make healthy living more challenging. Meals, exercise, and sleep surely take some extra effort and thinking ahead. Here are some tips on how to stay on top of your healthy living plan while working your unique schedule.
Planning Your Meals
When is it best for me to eat my meals and snacks?
Try to stick to a regular eating schedule.
- Have breakfast when returning home after your night shift
- Sit down for lunch after waking up
- Eat a full dinner before you go back to work in the evening
- If your shift is not an overnight shift, keep these same principles in mind when planning your meals. Sticking with a regular schedule will help you stay on track on your off days as well.
- Try to eat a balanced meal before arriving at work or within 2-3 hours of starting your shift. This will provide you with energy to help get you through the night.
- Pack balanced snacks for your shift (see details below).
- Set your alarm or reminders to be sure you leave yourself plenty of time to both prepare and consume your meal. Enjoying your food is still important as well. You do not want to have to rush through or eat too quickly before your shift.
What should I be eating to best manage my shift work schedule?
Plan to eat smaller meals and have healthy snacks spread out during your shift.
- The protein-and-produce combination works well as both a smaller yet satisfying meal and a satisfying snack.
- For a meal, you could add a whole grain to the mix, like a serving of whole grain crackers or some leftover brown rice in a small container.
- Be sure to pack your needed meals and snacks for work. Being prepared will help you stick with your healthy goals, as well as consume foods you desire.
- Have a light snack before bed. It’s hard to sleep well if you’re too full or too hungry. Ideally, you want to always include protein and fiber to extend your energy as long as possible.
Where should I eat my meals and snacks at work?
Table, Plate, Chair: Try to consume your small meals and snacks at a table, off of a plate, in a chair, away from your work and screens! How to Feel Full With a Smaller Plate
Planning Your Exercise
When it comes to exercise and shift work, the key is to figure out what is best for your body. It is only true that exercise keeps you up if it is true for you.
- If exercise stimulates you, it is best to plan a consistent time before your shift.
- If exercise calms you down, you could plan your workouts for the best time for you, either before or after going to work.
Listen to signs and signals from your body. Choose a time you feel could be consistent for you.
Planning Your Sleep
Shift workers should try to stay on the same sleep schedule every day of the week.
- Try not to change your sleep time on your days off. Keeping a regular schedule will help align your body clock with your sleep pattern. This will increase the quality of your sleep.
- Determine what hours (ideally, 7-8 hours) you are going to sleep.
- Sleep as soon as possible after the night shift. If you delay sleep after your shift, your body will begin to warm up and prepare for being awake, versus going to sleep.
- Blackout curtains are highly recommended.
Listening to your body, planning ahead, and meeting with a Livongo expert coach are keys to making sure your shift work plan works for you!