Working Nights? Top Five To-Do’s to Reduce Declines in Health

Are you working the graveyard shift?

A recent study has linked night-shift work to an increase in Type – 2 Diabetes (1).

Compared with day workers, people who occasionally worked night shifts were 15 percent more likely to have diabetes; those who rotated shifts with some night work were 18 percent more likely; and those who worked irregular shifts with frequent night shifts were 44 percent more likely to have Type 2 diabetes, the results showed.

Working through the night can cause misalignment of circadian rhythms, reduced energy expenditure, and partial sleep restriction, which can all contribute to the risk.

So what’s one to do who happens to be in an industry in which working a regular 9-5 may not always be an option?

A recent article in the Times (2) gives some vague recommendations: “Try to prioritize sleep, be physically active, keep a healthy weight”, but there’s no mention of just how to keep that healthy weight.

As is often the case, it’s easy to list being active prior to eating a real, whole food diet; as if to imply that if one is active, what they eat is less important.

I beg to differ.

I’ve quoted a client’s famous line many a time; he said, “Abs are made in the kitchen”.

Well, not only are abs made in the kitchen, but a healthy, alkaline diet leading to a body which is not in a constant state of inflammation is also made in the kitchen!

As our awareness as a society about the significance of gut health and how that play a crucial role in our overall health grows, it would be remiss to not mention how what someone who has to work during a period of time when the body wants to be sleeping eats will affect his or her health.

One needn’t even get too scientific about it:  if you’re sleepy and know you’ve got to stay up for several more hours, it would be natural to think sugar, caffeine or both.

What’s more, if you’re already overly reliant on sugar as your fuel rather than fat, it’ll seem all the more natural as your body has been conditioned to automatically think of consuming something sweet when energy levels start to drop.

Rather than resorting to sugar and coffee, consider this the perfect opportunity to kill the proverbial two birds with one stone:  train your body to become more fat-adapted and decrease inflammation in one fell swoop.

Below are five easy things you can do to help ease the pain and consequence of night shift work:

While this won’t take the place of a good night’s sleep, removing the double whammy effect of lack of sleep plus eating too much sugar will at least decrease the long term health consequence of having to work through those long, dark nights.

  • Eat More Fat ….a ketogenic diet can ameliorate common, comorbid, and difficult-to-treat conditions such as pain and inflammation, according to a recent study posted on the US National Library of Medicine’s Website (3).
  • Drink Bone Broth Bone broth contains chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine, the compounds sold as pricey supplements to reduce inflammation, arthritis and joint pain. (4)
  • Omit Sugar A diet high in sugar leads to obesity, insulin resistance, increased gut permeability and low-grade inflammation (5)
  • Maximize the Sleep You Do Get. Practice Good Sleep Hygiene.  Not, no showering before bed. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including on the weekends. Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature. Remove electronic devices, such as TVs, computers, and smart phones, from the bedroom. Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime. Get some exercise. Being physically active during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night (6).
  • Meditate  Mindfulness meditation impacts measurable brain circuits more so than helpful relaxation practices, and that these brain circuit changes help us understand how mindfulness meditation improves health (7).

Granted, sleep is sleep and there’s nothing that can take the place of a good night’s rest, but if you’re in a situation where you’ve got to work through the night, why not minimize the repercussions?