The material handling industry is one of the most demanding industries in the world. You often have to work in challenging environments in night shifts for long hours. Although as a worker, you do get training and personal protective equipment (when working in hazardous or dangerous conditions), you also need to take active steps for your own health.
Working through normal sleep hours in a material handling plant is going to lead to some health concerns eventually. These health issues may range from common problems like metabolic disturbances to more serious ones like cardiovascular disorders in some cases. That’s why night-shift workers need to proactively care for their health.
1. Watch Your Caffeine Consumption
Whether you are handling rigging hardware or operating heavy machinery, working night shifts requires you to stay focused and alert to avoid accidents. As a result, most people tend to drink caffeine or energy drinks to stay up. However, relying on caffeine is not a good habit.
Caffeine, especially in large quantities, can have a serious effect on your sleep pattern. If you drink too much coffee during your night shift, you will have trouble sleeping during the day. The lack of sleep can lead to various disorders like Type 2 Diabetes, increased stress, headaches, and high blood pressure.
If you do need to drink coffee or energy drinks, you need to cut down your intake significantly. At the start of your shift, you can drink small amounts of coffee at regular intervals. However, you must avoid caffeine six hours before your shift ends. This will help you avoid sleep trouble.
2. Take Small and Light Meals before Work
Whether or not you work night shifts, taking large meals at night can lead to various health issues such as digestion problems, constipation, and heartburn, among other things. You should avoid heavy meals and take small light meals before your shift begins.
In most people who work regular night shifts, glucose metabolism is affected. So, you should avoid eating high carb foods. Preferably eat foods with a low glycemic index such as vegetables, lentils, beans, brown rice, sprouts, nuts, and quinoa.
Stay away from salty, starchy, and sugary foods. Make sure to eat starch-rich veggies like potatoes in moderation. Instead, you can try something like a delicious bowl of vegetables and lentil soup. Avoid snacking on salty and sugary foods like chips, crackers, fries, and donuts during your night shift. Nuts can be a healthy snacking option, if required.
3. Eat Antioxidant-Rich Foods
Research shows that people working night shifts often have elevated counts of WBCs, lymphocytes, and monocytes compared to those mainly working day shifts. This increased leukocyte count can lead to various chronic diseases.
One effective way to reduce the resulting damage is to consume antioxidant-rich foods. Plant-based foods such as vegetables and fruits are a rich source of antioxidants. Try including green and leafy vegetables like spinach, green tea, citrus foods, leeks, onions, and garlic in your diet as much as possible. Including seafood, lean meat, milk, and nuts in your diet can also increase your antioxidant count.
4. Get Plenty of Sleep
Enough sleep is required for a healthy body and mind. The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven-to-nine hours of sleep per day for adults between the ages of 26 and 64 years and for younger adults (18-25 years).
When working night shifts, you need to support your circadian rhythm, an in-built mechanism that controls your body clock, and also your sleep pattern. If you switch between day and night shifts, your sleep pattern can get out of sync, leaving you deprived of sleep.
For better sleep during the day, you need to avoid exposure to natural light as it stimulates wakefulness. Try using blackout blinds in your bedroom or at least use dark-colored curtains that will block the maximum amount of sunlight. You can use sleep masks to cover your eyes and earplugs to avoid noise disturbance.
Our body also experiences deep sleep between 2 AM and 3 AM. If possible, taking a short nap during this time can help you avoid building too much sleep pressure during the day. If your break coincides with this time, nap for 20-30 minutes.
5. Make Sure to Exercise
Along with proper diet and enough sleep, you also need exercise to stay fit when working night shifts. Just before your shift begins, and after every couple of hours during the shift, try doing simple stretching exercises. Something simple like standing hamstring stretches and piriformis stretches can help loosen your muscles and joints.
Stretching during the shift can help you avoid fatigue and sleepiness. However, don’t overdo it. You can also create a workout schedule (through trial-and-error) that suits your work schedule.
Usually, it is better to work out in a gym on your off days if you work night shifts. You can also take up running, biking, and swimming as an exercise to stay fit. Make sure to consult a doctor or a health expert, if required.
Working night shifts in a demanding industry like material handling is never easy. You can, however, take various steps to stay healthy. Hopefully, these tips will help you improve your physical as well as mental well-being. If required, talk to your doctor or healthcare expert to find better alternatives to keep up your health. Remember, health is your true wealth.