How To Make Shift Work 'Work'

Shift work - love it or hate it, it is necessary for many industries and affords parents time with their children and helps students fund their studies. There are around 1.4m Australians regularly engaging in shift work. 

However, if seems shift work can have a detrimental impact on the physical and mental states of those who undertake it. Research suggests it can impair cognitive function, increase stress and lead to depression, addiction and fatigue.  Whilst the World Health Organisation describe shift work as a “probable carcinogen”, stating shift work has been linked to heightened levels of diabetes, heart disease and cancer,

With our 24/7 society showing no sign of slowing down, how can shift workers take care of themselves without sacrificing their careers? We share our tips for maintaining wellbeing while on shift work.

Sleep Management: Experts believe one of the best ways to limit the potentially damaging effects of shift work is to cultivate positive sleeping patterns. The National Sleep Foundation recommends sticking to the same rest and wake times each day to help regulate your circadian rhythm and improve sleep quality.

Working night shifts can throw our internal body clock out of sync with the external world. By making your bedroom as restful a space as possible and creating a dark space you can trick your body into thinking it is night. Tips: installing blackout curtains and banning digital devices. Practising deep breathing and spritzing your pillow with soothing scents can aid the winding down process.

Eat Well:

When it comes to eating right, shift work presents its own unique set of challenges and tiredness can lead to bad choices.  Try preparing nutritious meals in advance and schedule meals at regular intervals to maintain a steady flow of energy before, during and after work.

Drink Right: 

Stay hydrated during shifts by drinking plenty of water. Monitor your water intake by in a pre-measured bottle. and aim for 2-2.5 litres a day target.

When used effectively, caffeine can provide an added boost of energy for shift workers right when they need it. However, drinking coffee towards the end of a shift can impact the quality of sleep achieved afterwards so be mindful of when and how much you consume.

Alcohol is commonly used to induce sleep, but because it disrupts the sleep obtained it is best avoided before bed.

Bond with Your Colleagues:

If anyone understands the challenges associated with working shifts, it’s your colleagues. Befriending them not only allows work to run more smoothly, it also means better communication and support during periods of high stress. If you’re feeling tired at work, it is vital to let someone know so you don’t put yourself or others in danger. The more comfortable you are with other members of staff, the easier it will be to ask for help when required.

Seek Support: 

One of the greatest issues faced by shift workers is balancing their personal and professional worlds. Try to allocate time for friends and family which fits in with your unique schedule to ensure you get time to interact and they don’t feel neglected because of your job.