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NIOSH Training for Nurses on Shift Work and Long Work Hours

Diet Suggestions for Night-Shift Nurses

When you work the night shift and your circadian rhythms have not adjusted to being active at night, you may eat at times when your digestive tract is prepared for sleep and not for eating and digesting food. As a result you increase your risk for gastrointestinal symptoms, obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, and metabolic syndrome.9

Given the evidence currently available, Lowden et al.10 offered these diet guidelines for shift workers.

  • Avoid eating or reduce food intake between midnight and 6 a.m. Use the normal day and night pattern of meal timing as much as possible, and divide eating into three meals per 24-hour period.
  • Eat more frequently when you need to boost your energy.
  • During the shift, eat high-quality foods such as vegetables, salads, vegetable soups, fruits, wholegrain sandwiches, yogurt, cheese, eggs, nuts, and green tea.
  • Avoid sugar-rich products and low-fiber carbohydrate foods. These can increase sleepiness, so avoid them when you feel sleepy or need to stay alert.10-12
  • Try to eat with colleagues in a pleasant environment away from the work site.
Module: 9, Page 8 of 12