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How to Work the Third Shift and Stay Healthy

Tips on Sleep, Nutrition and At-Work Activities
  -- By Liz Noelcke, Staff Writer
The third shift. Unavoidable for some. Dreaded by many. At a time when it’s difficult just to stay awake, you are expected to function at a reasonable level. Unfortunately, laboring through the night can wreak havoc on your body, weakening your immune system and causing a destructive decrease in energy. It’s difficult for the body’s internal clock to adapt to shift work, and laboring through the night often causes insomnia and indigestion. It becomes even trickier if you have to switch between day and night shifts. So, if you are one of the millions of people that work the third shift, check out our healthy tips to combat the damage it can do to your body.

Sleep
It’s often the hardest element to "get right" if you are working late. Your body is ready to crash halfway through the shift, but when you return home your family is up and about. Spending quality time with them often stands in the way of enough sleep, and it’s almost impossible to choose between the two. What can you do?

Sleep is one of the most important gifts you can give your body. But you are fighting your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle by staying up through the night, and sleep loss can be dangerous. Even if you are sleeping during the day instead of the night, you still need an average of eight hours to keep your body functioning properly. It’s important to make this a continuous eight hours, too.

Often, third shift workers break up their sleep in order to spend more time with loved ones and do activities that they enjoy. Of course, this is key to a happy life and positive relationships, but it keeps your body from going through the proper sleep cycles, rotating from light to deep sleep. If you are sleeping for a few hours in the morning and then an hour or so before work, your body will not be rested enough and ready for the next shift.<pagebreak>

Sure, it’s easy to talk about being well rested, but when it comes down to actually doing it, it's easier said than done. Even if you are good about laying down into bed to catch some zzz’s, your environment, from your kids are bouncing around outside your door to your neighbor cutting grass might stand in the way.

Here are some ideas on how to fall asleep quickly and soundly:
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:
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: