Doctors, nurses, fire-fighters, factory workers, paramedics and police officers are just some of the many professions which have to work night shifts. There are a countless number of other professions which need to be just as active in the late hours of the night as others in the morning.
The problem with working night shifts is that our bodies are not physically programmed to stay awake all night without having significant side effects on health, memory, sleep, and performance. Let us look at each of these factors in further detail.
1. Regulating sleep cycles
At the base of the brain in the hypothalamus is the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), also known as the body’s internal clock. The SCN is responsible for many physiological needs such as the body’s temperature control, attention span, hormone production and sleep cycle. The SCN is responsible for making it difficult to read meticulous essay writing in the night due to natural light cycles. It is imperative that one gets enough sleep during the day to cover up for the sleep lost during the night. Wear sunglasses on the way home as exposure to sunlight will make it difficult to sleep.
Once home avoid watching TV, using mobile phones, playing video games or any other electronic devices in the room that you sleep. Avoid going to sleep hungry or thirsty. Use heavy blinds or curtains to ensure that the room is dark in the morning to achieve a productive sleep cycle. Avoid thinking about the previous or coming night’s work. Try to schedule the same time for sleep each morning to help your body’s natural sleep cycles adjust gradually. Avoid overthinking in bed if you can’t fall asleep. Try listening to soothing music to achieve deep slumber.
2. Maintaining concentration
Actively maintaining concentration working all night can be a tricky situation. From 2 am to 5 am our bodies are naturally programmed to switch off. This is the time a sleeping person would experience their REM cycles of sleep, or deep sleep. Being awake doesn’t mean that your brain will not try to shut down for short periods of time. This will make concentrating on precisely elaborate work even more challenging for the first few nights. Once the internal body clock adjusts after a few nights it might not be so difficult.
The best way to keep from falling asleep is to keep your mind and body active by viewing & focusing different interesting activities. Do not take a laid back approach towards work. Try to engage your entire body and full concentration on the tasks that you are performing. This will achieve two things. The first it will ensure that the task you are working on is performed scrupulously. The second, you will not face a situation where you get home and can’t fall asleep. Even so, it is still advisable to double-check that you have followed all the standard operating procedures for completing a task before submitting it for assessment.
3. Consuming a healthy diet
There is no doubt that staying up all night will have an effect on your diet. The human body in the natural daily routine is programmed to feel hungry during specific times of the day. Staying up all night and satisfying untamed hunger pangs will be a demanding and time consuming pursuit even in the course of the day. Working nights will leave the body starving for food during the day and deprived of physical activity. This can have an overall negative effect on the body if this routine is followed for longer periods of time.
Plan your meals so that they include all of the four basic food groups. Avoid trying to eat exorbitantly spicy or fatty foods at night. This will make you feel drowsy after feeling full and it will also keep you up in the morning when you are trying to sleep. Instead of eating 2 or 3 meals in a day it is advisable to eat light snacks intermittently. The main goal should be to not feel extremely hungry or extremely full at any point in the day or night.
4. Performing physical exercise
Anyone staying up all night will hardly have time to physically sustain their personal wellbeing. The mind needs sleep to rejuvenate the senses back to their optimal performance. Similarly the body craves physical activity to keep performing flawlessly. The body will begin to regress and age rapidly if a person goes against their natural body clock and simultaneously does not perform any physical activity. Physical exercise helps the body push the boundaries of strength to achieve a better physical condition.
Try to schedule at least 30 – 45 minutes of rigorous activity at least 5 times a week. If you consume alcohol, smoke or use any other intoxicants, try to reduce your intake to a bare minimum. Exercising regularly will also give you a boost when you are working the graveyard shift. Swimming gives you a full body work out in the least amount of time possible. Badminton, volleyball, squash and tennis are also good options for getting a full body workout. Brisk walking in a park will also have a positive effect both physically and mentally.