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Working The Overnight Shift? How to get your mind and body accustomed to working nights.

By Rick Geiger

Growing up they always told you: “Nothing good happens after midnight.” And you didn’t believe them. But now that you find yourself venturing into the dark working the overnight shift, you have to admit: You were totally right!  

Congratulations. You’re one of nearly 15 million Americans who make a living working when everyone else is sawing logs. And that is good. But not easy. Turns out, your body wasn’t built for working the overnight shift. Who knew, right? Well, just about everybody. But believe it or not, there can be several advantages to working the overnight shift: fewer distractions, more autonomy, even better pay. 

But none of the good changes the fact that when you’re staying up all night you’re swimming against the tide of your body’s natural circadian rhythms. And that can have real consequences. Aside from the obvious challenges of staying awake and alert, there can even be health risksFortunately, there are some practical steps you can take to help your body adjust to working the overnight shift so you can stay alert and healthy. Medical News Today recently detailed several in the article Life Hacks: How to cope with night shifts.

 Manage your sleep patterns 

Adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per day to function at our best. To help make sure you consistently get enough sleep and can function optimally try the following:

• Make a schedule and stick to it. Set aside a block of 7 to 9 hours right after work for sleep. And use it!

• Eat and drink before bed just enough to prevent hunger from waking you up.

• Avoid alcohol and smoking before bed. Stimulants = bad for sleep.

• Make sure it’s quiet, dark, and a comfortable temperature.

• Set your phone to do-not-disturb and let your friends and family know your schedule.

• Make up for any missed sleep as soon as possible.

 Control light exposure

Your body’s internal clock is influenced by light and darkness. So, try to increase exposure to light while working the overnight shift and reduce exposure afterward. Believe it or not, wearing shades on the drive home can help prepare your body for sleep. And blocking out sunlight with blinds or a sleep mask can improve the quality of your rest. 

Watch your diet 

Avoid foods that are difficult to digest, such as processed meals and fried or spicy foods. And limit food and drinks that are high in sugar. 

Take a nap 

Even 20 to 45 minutes during your break can be of great help while working the overnight shift. 

Use caffeine wisely 

Most people start their day with a huge flood of caffeine first thing. But smaller doses spread throughout the shift have been shown to be more effective.

Working the overnight shift affects different people differently. But following a few helpful suggestions can help you to not just survive but to thrive while working through the wee hours.

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