Night shift, also popularly known as graveyard shift can be quite challenging. While the world is ready to pack up and tuck into their beds for a good night's sleep, you are getting ready for your work. When we work at night, which is against our body rhythm, it results in certain challenges, including eating habits. In a recent study, published in the journal 'Nutrients', researchers analysed the impact of a snack, a meal or no food at all and found that a simple snack is an ideal option for people to stay alert on night shift.
"In today's 24/7 economy, working in the night shift is common, with many industries - health care, aviation, transport and mining - requiring employees to work around the clock. As a night shift worker, finding ways to manage your alertness when your body is naturally primed for sleep can be really challenging," said Charlotte Gupta, lead researcher of the study.
"We know that many night shift workers eat on-shift to help them stay awake, but until now, no research has shown whether this is good or bad for their health and performance. Our findings will inform the most strategic eating patterns on-shift and can hopefully contribute to more alert and better-performing workers," added Gupta.
Our body is designed to work in day and rest at night; however, when we work at night, it conflicts with our internal body clock, which makes it difficult for us to stay focused and awake at work. Therefore, managing exhaustion is critical at workplace, especially for our health and safety.
For the study, researchers examined 44 participants over a 7-day simulated shift-work protocol. They examined the impact of three eating conditions (a meal comprising 30 per cent of energy intake over a 24-hour period, for example, a sandwich, muesli bar, and apple); a snack comprising 10 per cent of energy intake (for example, just the muesli bar and apple); and no food intake at all, each consumed at 12:30 am. The participants were asked to keep a track of their hunger levels, gut reaction and sleepiness.
It was observed that all participants reported increased fatigue and decreased energy and focus during night shift; however, consuming a snack reduces the impact of these feelings more as compared to one meal or no food at all.
"Now that we know that consuming a snack on night shift will optimise your alertness and performance without any adverse effects, we're keen to delve more into the types of snacks shift workers are eating," said Gupta.