The hectic modern lifestyle can be wearisome after a while. After all, we weren’t meant to stay put at our desks, or to stare at the laptop screen for long hours. But in a digitalized world, the line between work and personal space has blurred.

How does working from home affect your wellbeing?

Working from home has its advantages. You can eat on time, be more productive, avoid tiring commutes, and exercise often. But it isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. According to a UN report, WFH workers reported constant stress vs. regular workers.

When we WFH we put in more hours, remain accessible 24/7, and suffer from sleep deprivation. Not to forget research warnings about how prolonged sitting is bad for your body. Things are dicier for ones on rotating shifts and those who work late nights.

Two-fold effects of working night-shifts on health:

1. Influence on your biology

This has much to do with how humans live their lives. Being diurnal creatures, we thrive in sunlight and unwind when it’s dark. When you work at night, you disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm. Our mental, physical, and behavioral activities over the 24-hour period are disrupted.

While a few days of irregular work hours isn’t going to increase your risk of certain cancers, but long-term night shifts (whether at home or office) can affect your health. Changes in your sleep patterns put you at a greater risk of heart disease, type2 diabetes, ulcers, hypertension and depression.

The digestive system tends to be sluggish at night. Metabolic activity slows down, and so is the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and digest food. During night time, there is a reduced and ineffective use of energy from food. Consuming food at a late hour causes insulin and glucose regulation systems to go wonky.

2. Impact on your lifestyle habits

A lack of social interactions and isolation has become the new norm of a remote lifestyle. Working in shifts can intensify anxiety and depression symptoms.

Night workers tend to snack on junk food instead of eating full meals compared to day workers. They consume excess amounts of coffee and other stimulants to stay alert and awake. Thus, activating stress hormones in the process.

If you work night shifts, you may have experienced:

  • Change in appetite
  • Trouble falling asleep or getting adequate sleep
  • Gain in weight and cravings for salty or sugary foods
  • Digestion problems like gas, nausea, heartburn, constipation, and diarrhea
  • Discomfort such as leg cramps, eye strain, body aches, and headache
  • Feelings of isolation, anxiety, and loneliness

So, are you doomed to live with these nasty effects forever? No!

The healthy food options, dietary supplements, and nutritional information available today have made this situation manageable.

How you do to reclaim control over your health?

Simple. With a solid plan, and making it work for you. Focus on issues that affect your physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being. Embrace a healthier lifestyle through nutrition, sleep techniques, exercise, and stress busting activities.

Make your workday healthier

Get the balance right. Stay healthy, alert, and productive when working from home with these tips:

  • Create a nutritious meal plan and follow it
  • Prepare a food list before you go grocery shopping and stick to it
  • Prep your meals on a weekly basis to include nutritious foods from all food groups
  • Focus on eating wholesome meals, instead of obsessing over specific diets
  • Consider a meal subscription service or get healthy food delivered by home chefs
  • Avoid ordering unhealthy takeaways and buying processed store foods
  • Keep yourself well hydrated and reduce your consumption of alcohol

Plan your food intake while working late nights

1. Stick to your normal eating patterns. Eat your main meal at regular dinnertime, a couple of hours before shift begins. If you start working after 11 pm, finish your dinner by 8 or 9 pm.

2. Avoid heavy meals during your shift. This makes you sleepy during work hours and encourages weight gain. Remember the slow digestion process mentioned earlier? Large meals combined with prolonged sitting can also lead to gas and heartburn.

3. Stay away from fried, spicy or sugary foods. These foods can cause indigestion, acid reflux, and discomfort while working.

4. Consume snacks or small meals between midnight and 6 am. This provides you with enough energy to remain productive at work. Restrict this to two snack breaks.

5. Eat a light breakfast before you sleep. A small meal with slow acting carbs helps you fall asleep. The meal prevents hunger pangs from waking you up. 

6. Hydrate yourself throughout your work shift. It’s vital to drink plenty of water to maintain your energy levels. This can also reduce hunger pangs and prevent fatigue and headaches.

7. Drink coffee early in the shift but not later. When you start feeling groggy, go ahead and have a cup of two of coffee or black tea. But avoid stimulating drinks later in your shift as they remain in your system for 6-8 hours. This can disrupt your daytime sleep.  

Suggestions for your night-shift nutrition plan

A nutritious diet for remote workers is the same whether you’re on a day, afternoon, or night shift. A few tweaks to the meal plans ensure that you eat healthy. This also lowers the chances of overloading your digestive system.

  • Eat balanced meals throughout the day made. Prepare food using the major groups- proteins, carbs, fats, and fresh foods.
  • Choose dinners that are high in protein and contain complex carbs. Ex: lentils and whole grains help keep you satiated and alert for longer times.
  • Ensure that your snack or mini-meals contain antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. 
  • Make sure your meals contain plant foods rich in dietary fiber. They help manage your appetite and prevent you from overeating during work hours.
  • Avoid sugary and high calorie products such as pastries and bakery items. These are addictive and will lead to weight gain.
  • Stay away from processed foods such as white bread, chips, etc. that are high in sodium and unhealthy fats.
  • Don’t eat iron-rich foods during night shifts. Iron puts an extra pressure on the liver, leading to glucose intolerance and metabolic problems
  • Stay hydrated. Try water infused with herbs, berries and fruits as an alternative to plain water. Soups and water-based foods like watermelon, berries, cucumbers and zucchini are great options.
  • Consume healthy fats - cottage cheese, beans, seeds, tofu, nuts, eggs, and avocado in your diet. They help beat hunger pangs and reduce cravings
  • Add immune boosting foods to your main meals, snacks and beverages to beat the night shift blues. 
  • Choose carbs and melatonin rich (sleep inducing) foods for your ‘after shift’ meal. Nut butter, milk, walnuts, cereals, and olive oil are foods that help you with sleeping during the day. 

A peek into your eating schedule

The best way to eat healthy on night shifts is to create a meal plan. For starters, consume food within an hour of waking up. Schedule your main meals and snacks every 4-5 hours for the rest of day. 

Let say your shift is from 12 am to 8 am and you wake up at 5 pm. Your eating schedule would look like this:

  • 5 pm Wake-up meal – Whole grain toast with nut butter and fruits
  • 8-9 pm Dinner/pre-shift meal – ½ cup dal or lean protein dish, 1 cup vegetables, ½ cup rice or 2 chapatis
  • 12-1 am Snack time – Fruits with nut butter or crackers with dip
  • 4-5 am Shift meal – Soup, bean dish or salad
  • 7-8 am Bedtime snack – Whole grain Cereals with milk and nuts  

Snack smart with healthy food swaps

Our first instinct is to reach out for junk food, fried food or sugary drinks when we need a quick energy boost. Planning in advance and building your will power will be vital for reducing the tendency to graze on unhealthy foods.

  • Ditch the carbonated and caffeinated energy drinks. Drink natural fruit juices, green smoothies, or unsweetened herbal teas
  • Dump your refined flour biscuits for low-sugar & low-fat whole grain and multigrain varieties. 
  • Toss the sugar heavy and vegetable oil-based granola bars. Make your own energy balls and protein bars with oats and jaggery.  
  • Say goodbye to potato chips and opt for baked or protein chips and nut butters combo
  • Swap the doughnuts and aloo bhujias with roasted vegetables, nuts, and fresh-made chutneys.
  • Satisfy your sweet tooth with berries, dates, and dried fruits instead of a cupcake and/or brownie. 

Other lifestyle factors to consider

  • Get active. Regular exercise is an excellent way to burn calories. Physical activities help release pleasure and calming hormones like serotonin. Mild to moderate activity can help keep depression and anxiety at bay. Choose an activity you enjoy. Yoga, walking, jumping rope, cycling, sports, swimming, HIIT are some examples
  • Eat your Vitamins. Sleep issues and depression are also due to deficiencies of vitamins B and D, and of minerals, zinc and magnesium. Ensure you’re getting these nutrients through foods and supplements, if necessary 
  • Get some sleep. Ensure you get at least 7 hours of sleep when you’re not working. Sticking to a regular snooze schedule and creating an ambient sleeping atmosphere can help you fall asleep quicker
  • Maintain social interactions. Working from home can disrupt your social life when you live alone. More so when you work nights. Seek common activities that help you stay in touch with family and friends

We understand that today, remote and late-night work can indeed tax your body and mind. Don’t be hard on yourself if you are struggling to eat healthy or meet your fitness goals, as working is a necessity. Be proactive and use this nutrition guide to empower yourself and advance your health.

Have a #FitdayEveryday!