Shift work, especially where the start time varies can be difficult to get used to, no sooner do you feel like you are getting the hang of it, then you get a few days off and the pattern you thought you had cracked suddenly goes out of the window.
For anyone working as a Warehouse Operative, you will know that the physical nature of the work makes getting through a night shift even tougher.
Many can be forgiven for resorting to energy drinks but when you read the label you will see that they are just full of sugar and caffeine, so bear in mind, what goes up, must come down… often half way through a shift.
So how do you survive shift work?
It’s best to identify a suitable sleep schedule and try to stick to it. If you work regular shifts try going to bed at different times, for example soon after you arrive home from work or just before the next shift and see what works best for you. Always have a short sleep before your first nightshift after time off.
Your sleep environment is also important. If you need to sleep in the daytime then use heavy curtains or blackout blinds, or if that is not possible then some funky eyeshades will help. Tell your family not to disturb you and let your neighbours know that you are working shifts and so may be asleep during the day.
If it’s too noisy then you could use earplugs or perhaps background music. You can even get a pillow that had an internal speaker you could plug into an iPod or similar. Great for some quiet music to make you drift off.
Digestive problems are often common in shift workers due to the disruption of the body clock and a tendency to indulge in a poor diet, grabbing whatever is available. It is best to eat regular light meals as this is likely to maintain alertness, whereas having a blowout just before your shift can cause drowsiness, as well as making it difficult to perform your duties.
Choose foods that are easy to digest, avoid fatty and spicy foods and even sweets and chocolate, as they provide a short term energy boost often followed by a dip in stamina. Fruit and vegetables are good snacks as they provide vitamins, minerals and fibre, and don’t forget to drink plenty as dehydration can reduce both physical and metal performance.
Don’t turn to stimulants and/or sedatives! Using coffee or cigarettes to stay awake and then sedatives such as sleeping pills or alcohol to help you sleep is definitely not to be recommended!
Even if your shift involves something strenuous as is often the case with warehouse work, still doing some regular exercise such as attending a gym, a fitness class or just getting outdoors for a walk or cycle is advisable. Indeed, if you have the opportunity to go for a swim after work, a good dip and an invigorating shower afterwards will make you feel a whole lot better and ready to enjoy your time off to the full.
Working shifts can make you feel isolated, particularly if your family and friends are working normal hours. Try to make friends with others on a similar shift rota to you so that you can share your spare time doing something fun.
If you can get to grips with taking care of yourself and prioritising your health, there is a good chance that you will be able to not only survive shift working but also thrive.
For more advice and information about self care for shift workers there is a really helpful article on the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) website.
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