My husband has been working the night shift for the past few months and has a few more to go before the project he is working on is done. It's been hard for both of us because we don't get to see each other at all during the week - he gets home from work right after I've left for it. His health has also been affected by his current schedule.
Humans are not made to stay awake while it’s dark. Doing so disrupts your body’s natural circadian rhythms, which control many biological functions such as sleep-wake cycles, hormone release, and body temperature. Staying awake while it's dark also triggers a low-level but persistent inflammatory response, damaging the body and causing illness. Night shift work increases your risk for obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, and cancer. If you’re working the night shift, you have to go the extra mile to protect your body and health by:
- Exercising before or after your shift. This helps to reset your clock and eases inflammation.
- Increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables. Look for ones that are high in flavonoids and antioxidants (apples, bananas, berries, orange juice, broccoli); they will help tame inflammation.
- Finding ways to manage your stress. Working nights can cause an increase in stress hormones that fuel disease. Combat this by meditating, reading books you like, lighting a candle, or taking a bath.
- Getting seven to eight hours of straight sleep. For the first few months my husband slept a couple hours then woke up when I got home from work before going to bed for a few more hours. Eventually we realized that he would feel so much better if he sleep seven straight hours, even if that meant I didn't get to see him.
For more information about flavonoids, check out this PDF created by the USDA. A chart with the flavonoid contents of selected foods begins on page 11.