All About Night Shift


Many people work at night; most work productively.

Working at night predictably causes sleep loss and fatigue. This is because the human body is designed to sleep at night.

Our bodies are controlled by an internal daily body clock, located in the hypothalamus.

At night, many of the processes active during the day start to slow down as our bodies prepare for sleep.

Working at night involves fighting against such rhythms, and trying to be alert when we are programmed to be asleep.

When you are through with your night shift and go home to sleep, the cues from your internal body clock, daylight, and home atmosphere, in general, tell you that it is a time to be awake, active.

Result? Your sleep is likely to be fragmented and brief.

Poor sleeping habits have also been linked to hair loss, mental health problems, allergies, common cold, depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, stroke, and cancer.

Night Work & Safety

  • Fatigue is known to reduce performance
  • When you work at night you are trying to function with your alertness, vigilance and cognitive reasoning not being at their best
  • Research shows that people who are sleep-deprived have more attentional problems; they also make more errors
  • Exhaustion impairs recent learning; it also decreases our ability to make correct decisions.

Preparing For The Night Shift

  • Make sure you are as rested and refreshed before coming for duty
  • Manage your normal sleep when at home. Make sure your bedroom is a suitable place to sleep
  • Try to associate your bedroom with sleeping. Avoid watching TV, using a computer, mobile phone, or playing computer games in the bedroom
  • Sleep at home — your bedroom. Don’t curl up on the sofa, or in a chair
  • Try consciously not to worry
  • If you cannot sleep in bed for 30 minutes or so, get up and go to another room, or do something to divert yourself. Try some relaxation exercises, meditation, listen to soulful music [less than 60 beats/minute], or take a bath
  • Try to connect between being in bed and sleeping. If you can do this, your ability to fall asleep as you do get into bed will improve.

Get Plenty Of Sleep Before Your First Night Shift

Keep in mind that a late night out with alcohol will make you sleep poorly. You will tend to increase your sleep debt and fatigue, the next day.

Take Afternoon Sleep

Take an afternoon sleep — this helps to feel well rested before you start a night shift.

Adapt To A Night’s Work

  • Prepare yourself sufficiently in advance, mentally and physically. This reduces the negative impact of night shifts on your health and also well-being
  • Survive the night shift by maintaining your alertness and vigilance while on duty
  • The circadian low is in the middle of the night, between bout 3:00am and 6:00am. Take note
  • You will certainly nap on duty if you have not had your afternoon siesta
  • Maximise your exposure to light throughout the night shift
  • Exposure to light during the night, including indoor light from a bright desk lamp, or normal overhead lights, has an alerting influence on the brain; it also improves performance.

Eating At Night

  • Eat and drink properly so that you do not start your night shift hungry, or dehydrated
  • Eat a full meal before you come to duty.


If you can’t do away with coffee, take small cups at intervals; maybe, a mug-full of coffee. The caffeine in coffee may help to overcome the transitory sleep inertia you may feel after the nap.

Recovering From The Night Shift

Getting home from work:

  • Don’t drive; allow yourself to be driven. Remember, you are tired after a night’s duty. Your reflexes are also slack
  • Aim to recuperate as fully as possible before your next shift, and keep your body on a night work setting.

Before You Go To Bed

  • When you get home, don’t get distracted by other things that delay going to bed
  • The longer you delay, the more awake you are likely to become and the harder you will find it to sleep
  • Shift workers who go to bed at 10.00am tend to sleep for at least four hours, whereas those who retire at midday sleep for an hour less.
  • If you are hungry, or thirsty, have something to eat and drink [water]. Avoid alcohol/cigarettes etc.,


Each person is unique, different; finding the best combination of techniques for you may, therefore, require some time.

Coping With Night Shifts

  • Night shifts require people to be alert when their bodies advise them to sleep
  • Working at night leads to increased sleep debt
  • Sleep-deprived people have more attentional failures; also, mishaps
  • Some have more road traffic accidents when tired
  • Exhaustion erases recent learning.

Preparing/Surviving The Night Shift

  • Build a successful normal sleep routine
  • Get extra sleep before working the first night shift
  • Take a two-hour afternoon sleep before coming for duty
  • Take a 25-30-minute nap to counter fatigue
  • Your alertness will improve by exposure to bright light during the night
  • Do not miss proper meals when working at night
  • Use caffeine thoughtfully.


  • Consider the risks of driving
  • Get home; try to sleep immediately
  • Develop a schedule for sleeping during the daytime
  • Keep your sleep debt to the minimum.

Computer: Posture Holds The Key

  • Raise your PC/laptop to eye level
  • Mix up your positions with a standing desk
  • Get better neck and back support
  • Use an ergonomic mouse and keyboard
  • Line up yourself properly with your computer
  • Use an ergonomic desk
  • Use exercises to ward off repetitive stress injuries [RSI]
  • Fine-tune your desk spacing
  • Use software enforcers
  • Go easy on your eyes.

Nutrition & Fitness

  • Eat a big meal at the start of your work schedule
  • Moderate meal is okay around midnight
  • Before going to bed in the morning, you may eat a small, regular breakfast meal
  • Eat cereals with milk and fruits, or two chapattis with dal and vegetables. Or, eat a light sandwich — avoid adding on calories which don’t get burned while sleeping
  • Eat veggies and fruits. Cut on greasy food, sweets, soft drinks and caffeine
  • Too much caffeine causes irritability, anxiety; it ‘ups’ your blood pressure. It also interferes with iron and calcium absorption, which is harmful for women. Limit to 2-3 cups
  • Stick to a balanced diet: protein, rich carbohydrates, vegetables and fruits
  • Pack small meals, like salads, sandwiches, or fruits and increase fluid intake.
  • Lack of fluids can lead to dehydration, leading to headache, dry skin and nasal irritation and cramps, while making you more susceptible to cold, cough, sore throat and flu
  • Apart from nutrition, manage your stress levels; get some exercise before you go to work and avoid smoking and alcohol
  • Get a good morning’s sleep before you get to work on your next shift.


  • Exercise before you work. Regular physical activity keeps your blood circulating, your heart pumping well
  • Exercise reduces stress. It gives a feel-good, healthy feeling
  • Keep yourself well hydrated.

Hair Loss

Night shift may cause hair loss, because of excess stress/mental tension.

Balance Work-Life/Life-Work

  • Take time for yourself
  • Schedule time to relax and do the things you enjoy
  • Spend time with friends and family
  • Stick to an exercise routine and make time for hobbies, and meditation
  • Working nights can be depressing, so make the best of it. Keep smiling
  • Just do it; also, plan and balance your life.

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