Is This the Best Diet for RNs Working Night Shifts?

by Tera Tuten on August 25, 2014

night-shift-food-soliantNight shifts can cause a myriad of challenges that wreak havoc on your body and mind.

Working in artificial light can shut down your melatonin production, which helps regulate digestion, hormones, and your ability to think clearly.

Disrupting your circadian rhythms can interfere with sleep patterns.

And there’s usually no where to go exercise in the middle of the night, even for a brisk walk to help you wake up (assuming you can get away for a break.)

If you plan it carefully, though, your night-time diet can be your secret weapon for to staying awake, being alert, and maintaining a healthy weight.Leave your money at home

Most hospitals have a fast food counter, cafeteria, or vending machines on site to provide access to food around the clock, but these options usually provide high-fat, high-sugar choices.

Most take-out and delivery options are large portions of poor nutritional quality that give you a short burst of energy, then drop you into a fog of fatigue.

Do yourself a favour and leave your money at home.

Or if you do eat from in-house services, choose healthy portions of low-fat items, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables.

Brown bag it

Bringing food from home is your best bet for guaranteed freshness and nutrition.

Make sure you include options that are high in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and complex carbohydrates.

Your brown bag should include raw veggies and fruit, a healthy sandwich such as turkey or tuna on wholegrain, and a few small snacks that you can keep close at hand, such as carrots, tomato juice, a fat-free probiotic yogurt or a low-sodium granola bar.

Eating every few hours over the course of your shift will provide you with a regular source of energy, keeping your blood sugar level and making it easier to fall into sleep once you get home because your body’s not working so hard to digest a big, heavy meal.

Cut out the caffeine

Caffeine is America’s go-to drug of choice, especially for night-shift workers who use it as a lifeline.

But the effects of caffeine can last up to eight hours, which may interfere with sleep once you’re done working.

It can also cause dehydration, which leads to fatigue, headaches, and a loss of concentration.

If you have to have your cuppa, drink it as early as possible in your shift or even before you go to work.

Better yet, switch to decaffeinated tea or coffee or sip from a bottle of cold water throughout your shift to keep hydrated without the unwanted side effects of caffeine.



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