Working the night shift makes it possible for many women to balance the work world and home life, but working while others sleep can take a toll on your metabolism. Shift work varies from the traditional third shift, 11pm to 7am, to 12-hour rotating shifts that include night duty, as well as other variations. The problem with working during the hours of darkness is the effect on the body's circadian rhythms -- the release of melatonin and cortisol and the regulation of the sleep/ wake cycle. If you work the night shift and need a metabolism boost, give special attention to diet and exercise, and use simple interventions to maintain your circadian rhythms for sleep.
Sleep seven to nine hours during every 24-hour period, recommends The National Sleep Foundation. When you don't get optimal sleep time, your body responds physiologically by slowing down, reducing your metabolic rate. In an editorial for the Annals of Medicine, Taheri Sharad and Emmanuel Mignot cite sleep deprivation effects, such as increased hunger and preferential loss of muscle to fat, which make it difficult to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Sleeping in a cool, quiet and dark room improves sleep quantity and quality.
Wear blue-blocker glasses to increase your ability to sleep during the day. In a Chronobiology International article, "Wearing Blue-Blockers in the Morning Could Improve Sleep of Workers on a Permanent Night Schedule," researchers indicated that the circadium rhythms are primarily set by the blue portion of the visible light spectrum. Exposure to blue light suppresses the release of melatonin, which induces the sleep cycle. Researchers recommend that night workers wear blue-blocker glasses just before leaving work and anytime they are outside until 4 p.m. in the afternoon during the summer months. During the fall and winter, blue blockers should be worn for two hours before the end of the night shift. The use of blue-blocker glasses increases sleep efficacy and decreases sleep fragmentation, according to the report.
Plan your meals and snacks. and take them to work with you. Avoid vending machine foods and fast-food take-out, which are generally dense in calories and loaded with sugar, fat and salt. These types of foods can lead to sharp spikes and dips in insulin levels, resulting in feelings of hunger and fatigue. Pack a small cooler or insulated bag with fresh fruits, salads with green leafy vegetables, and protein-rich snacks, such as cheese, nuts or peanut butter. Stave off hunger by eating frequent snacks or small meals. If you cannot eat frequently, avoid going longer than six hours between meals, according to Kathleen Meyer in an article for The American Nurse Today. Food deprivation can lead to a slower metabolism, according to an article for Campus Dining Services of the University of Illinois. Drinking coffee or tea with your meals or snacks can increase metabolism temporarily, but these drinks should not be consumed within four hours of your intended sleep time.
Exercise regularly. According to Appalachian State University researchers, 45 minutes of vigorous exercise increases metabolism for 14 hours following the exercise. But even 10-minute bouts of exercise can boost metabolism for up to an hour, according to a report by NBCNews.com. Working the night shift makes it more difficult to get to the gym or more dangerous to park a few blocks from the job site, preventing a brisk walk at the beginning and end of your work shift. Instead, exercise after you sleep or just before going to work for an energizing boost.
- American Nurse Today: Nutrition Tips for Nurses Who Work Shifts
- Illinois State University: Campus Dining Services: Maximize Your Metabolism
- Chronobiology International: Wearing Blue-Blockers in the Morning Could Improve Sleep of Workers On a Permanent Night Schedule
- National Sleep Foundation: How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?
- MayoClinic.com: Metabolism and Weight Loss: How You Burn Calories
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: A 45-Minute Vigorous Exercise Bout Increases Metabolic Rate for 14 Hours
- NBCNews.com: After 10 Minutes of Exercise, Hour-Long Boost
- Reproduction, Nutrition, Development: Effects of Light on Human Circadian Rhythms
For Judy Kilpatrick, gardening is the best mental health therapy of all. Combining her interests in both of these fields, Kilpatrick is a professional flower grower and a practicing, licensed mental health therapist. A graduate of East Carolina University, Kilpatrick writes for national and regional publications.