Beating the challenges of shift work

The effects of shift working on an individual are many, to name a few…
Obesity – unfortunately it’s a fact that over 60% of shift workers struggle to maintain a healthy weight, generally due to irregular eating habits, poor food choices, and for some a lack of exercise.
Diabetes and metabolic syndrome– a product  of snacking, generally on the wrong types of food, and also, as a consequence of  depleted sleep, the way in which the body metabolises sugar and therefore insulin production.
Insomnia – as a result of irregular sleeping habits and fluctuating sleep wake algorithms.
Mood swings and depression, a knock-on effect of insomnia
High blood pressure
Gastrointestinal problems
Cardiovascular disease,
and ultimately a shortened life expectancy.
But thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom.  Here are a few steps that can be instrumental in getting your life back on track, to a fitter, healthier and more energised you!
1.  Organisation
This is a three part step – initially, plan how you’re going to get organised.  Put some time aside to plan how and when you’re going to be able to do all that needs to be done i.e. house cleaning, food preparation, exercise, and of course a little self TLC. Step 2 is to put it into motion and food prep is paramount to your success. Cook multiple meals at once, leftovers are a great meal for a night shift, and by cooking meals that can be prepared and frozen, family mealtimes can be easy and time friendly. Step 3 – plan ahead, create a weekly menu, with the shopping done (easy to do online and get delivered, or click and collect) and most of the meals pre-prepared (days off are a perfect time to do this) some of the daily stress is diluted.
2. Don’t snack
With step 1 in place, this becomes easy.  Have a meal rather than a snack.  Regular meals incorporating a  balance of protein, carbs and healthy fats, will keep you fuller and fueled for longer, keep the metabolism busy and reduce the craving to pick up the chocolate biscuit that seems to be so readily available when on night shift.
3.  Rest and recover
Time always seems to be a factor in our lives, or should I say, the lack of time!! Pangs of guilt seem to be widespread whenever we think of setting time aside to rest.  The great news is that not only is it ok to take the time, it is vital!  Have a bath, schedule a massage, go for a walk or enjoy a yoga session.  You-time is what will keep you going, decreasing your stress levels and as a result, your cortisol levels. Increased cortisol levels impact the body in many ways,  like an expanding waist line, fluctuating hormones and therefore moods and a susceptibility to sickness.
4  Train as early in the day as possible
Again multi-faceted, you are fresher and less fatigued earlier in the day and therefore will be able to train to your potential. Also you’ll be more inclined to talk yourself out of training, later in the day, time becomes your greatest excuse!
5.  Eat on waking
Don’t skip the first meal, this meal not only kick-starts the metabolism, firing the engine, so to speak, it will also give you the energy to train.
6.  Sleep
Many shift- workers fall into poor sleeping habits, and as with Ali, my case study, choose not to sleep during the day, meaning that the time from one sleep period to the next is almost 48 hours! The consequences of being sleep deprived is another article on its own, but needless to say, the impact on health is severe, both mentally and physically
7.  Write down your reasons for implementing healthy changes
If you have made it to this point, grab pen and paper and write down why it’s important to you to make the above happen! Your reasons will differ, but there should be a common denominator…
Your health, and everything that encompasses.
Healthy body, healthy mind, healthy and happy you!!

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