View Full Version : Working nights

Sean Brannen
02-02-2009, 06:31 AM
Does anyone have any info about training, nutrition, hormones... for people who work night shifts?

I work from 11pm-7:30am Sunday night through Thursday night and I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle. I'm always tired and I don't think I'm recovering as well as I should be. I try switching back to sleeping at night on the weekends but I don't know if that's really a good idea. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Allen Yeh
02-02-2009, 08:55 AM
A few questions:

When do you go to sleep? Right after the shift?

Is your room completely blacked out?

Do you have electronics plugged in the room? (i.e...alarm clocks, TV's, cell phones)

How long have you been doing this?

What is your training like currently?

What is your nutrition like currently?

Mike ODonnell
02-02-2009, 10:05 AM
Honestly...there are so many naturally disruptive hormonal cycles with night shifts that there may be no right answer (except work the day shift). Your circadian rythm is disrupted which can lead to changes in the production of melatonin, estrogen, and growth hormone. Trying to sleep nights on weekends may actually be worse because you are changing up things so much.

Can the body adapt if you are always sleeping during the day? Maybe....no expert on that. but there are some reports to say that you may also have the same GH response but less during sleep, and more during waking hours (see this study: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/bsc/jsr/2004/00000013/00000003/art00006?crawler=true) .

Also are you really sleeping deeply during the day or are you more restless (much like people with sleep apnea are always fatigued). There might be something to try using melatonin supplements but that is best determined with more professional medical opinion (not mine).

Here's an interesting article as well:

Garrett Smith
02-02-2009, 12:16 PM
If I'd ever had to work nights, I'd be a lot more help, but I'd be a danger to myself and others if I had to stay up all night (I get practically narcoleptic at a certain point of sleep deprivation, nearly had a fatal accident once, so I avoid it).

In terms of your long-term health, you can't really be healthy working nights. Sorry for the bad news. It's really about how much one can slow the slide downhill.

My suggestion is you get out of it ASAP, but do your best to deal with it while you need to.

Some links I found:

Regarding cortisol, it naturally hits a high point around sunrise. In order to mimic this, working out right after your shift gets done may help to keep this cycle as close to normal as possible. Then you may want to get some other things done, have a big low-carb meal while you're at it, then get thee to bed. Try to wake up as late as you can before you have to go to your shift.

Make sure there is nothing plugged in to the wall (the cord or the actual item) within a minimum of 6 feet of your head while you are sleeping, preferably keep your cell phone in another room. This stuff will help you get more out of your sleep, I promise.

Hope that helps. Best of luck.

Gary Ohm
02-02-2009, 01:34 PM
I've been a shiftworker in the strictest sense for eight years. For 10 years before that I was a milkman having to get up anywhere from 0030 to 0230 four or five days a week.
There is no good way to do shift work. RIght now my shifts are from 0700 to 1900 or 1900 to 0700 with a 1:30 commute on each side. I am on a rotating five week schedule where I work all fourteen shifts a week over the course of the five weeks. It SUCKS! We had a safety lecture a few weeks ago where the presenter cited a new study that identifies shift work as a class II carcinogen. Thanks alot...

I can tell you what works for me;
Get a black room with no noise and no light. Turn on a fan for white noise and air movement. Get the room cold and then pile on blankets as necessary. Wear ear plugs and a light mask.

Wear sunglasses on your way home to minimize your exposure to the sunlight. Go to bed asap. Once you start farting around and get hit by the sunlight your body kicks into day mode and you're screwed. Melatonin works great for me. Also try benedryl.
Keep your diet clean. Indigestion finds its way through all the back doors so don't eat any junk or stuff that MAY give you trouble.
As far as working out, I try to work out either throughout the night (pullups on the randon pipe support, squats when I can, pushups when no one is looking and ect...) or I do a hard workout between 0200 and 0300. That gets me over the deathwatch timespan of 0230 to 0430 when most accidents happen because that is when your body is really trying to shut down. Working out any later and my adrenalin is still too high when I am trying to get to sleep. Also, no caffeine after midnight if you an help it.
On your first day off, try taking a nap until about 1100 or 1200. Any later and you won't be able to get to sleep that night. I have to sleep a little bit or I am a complete slobbering idiot (moreso than usual...) That night take another melatonin and/or a benedryl and get to bed at a reasonable hour. If you stay up too later your body will kick back into nightshift mode and you won't be able to sleep.

I hope this makes sense. By all means ask questions on this, I'm here to help. Also, this is the routine that I have found works for me. YMMV

Garrett Smith
02-02-2009, 03:45 PM
Nice post, Gary...keep taking care of yourself!

George Mounce
02-02-2009, 04:16 PM
I was a shift worker in the worst sense for 3 years. 24 hours on/12 hours off, repeated for weeks at a time. I often saw the sun rise twice.

Gary hit the high points, blacked out rooms are key, I bought a sleeping mask. I often had to get up in the middle of the day to walk out into a literal desert....120 and all sun. Hat and sunglasses were key.

Later on I was luck in that I worked the same hours as home, but deployed so I was up when it was normal for being in the US, except it was night where I was. I made sure during the night I was in light (even artificial) as much as possible during my awake time. I would get up, go workout before the sun set, then go to work during the night. Working out beforehand was so energizing it kept me nice and awake all night.

If you are working at night, I know that often shift-workers take Vitamin D if they aren't getting enough sun. I never took any extra, just my normal multivitamin with 100%, but you may want more.

Frank Needham
02-02-2009, 07:20 PM
I feel you. Having worked every shift known to man when in the gaming industry I can say it is tough to deal. How did I cope? Starting with the off days, I slept during the night and was up during the day. During work days I would stay up the first day back to work for 24 hrs to get back into the graveyard schedule. Then I would sleep from 3pm-11pm and was up during the day and worked the midnight to 8am shift. At all times I kept tin foil over the windows of my bedroom and never took it off. It was too much hassle to ever take the foil off. The room was like a cave. To be honest my workouts during this period were pretty crappy. I just tried to eat decently and cope as best as possible. As others have said there are many things that make it very difficult. Hopefully, you won't have to do this for long. If it is a long term thing I'd seriously consider using the day hours to try and get schooling or training that would allow other work hours, if that is possible for you.

Gary Ohm
02-02-2009, 07:28 PM
George I cannot imagine dealing with that sort of heat. I complain when I get up in the middle of the day and stumble down the hall 20 feet... I've heard the vit D thing too. But I generally only work four of five shifts a week so I can still squeeze in some sun time normally.

Nice post Frank. I have not tried the tin foil yet. Your signature line is perfect for this thread too...

Sean Brannen
02-02-2009, 10:08 PM
When do you go to sleep? Right after the shift?

I've tried both ways. It seems like I sleep much better if I go to bed right after work but then I'm forced to get into the gym by 3:30 or face the crowd. That only allows me 7 hours of sleep on training days. It would literally take me 2+ hours to lift because its so crowded if I went later. Mornings are much easier.

Is your room completely blacked out?

It's pretty dark. I have the window covered but I'll try and do a better job of it.

Do you have electronics plugged in the room? (i.e...alarm clocks, TV's, cell phones)

All of the above. I'll definitely remove them if that makes a difference.

How long have you been doing this?

About 18 months.

What is your training like currently?

Currently doing strength training only. Rippetoe Texas method style.

What is your nutrition like currently?

I eat a pretty basic lower carb diet. Mostly meat and veggies with occasional fast food. This could definitely be better. I recently started IF'ing a couple times a week just for fun. I'm not really looking to lose any weight.

Also, I'm currently taking classes so I can eventually get out of this job but it's gonna be a few years.

Frank Needham
02-03-2009, 03:24 PM
Also, I'm currently taking classes so I can eventually get out of this job but it's gonna be a few years.

Thats what I like to hear. I've been at it seriously since 2001, after changing careers from the gaming industry to engineering. I'm so glad I made the decision. Its been tough, having a family, working and going to school part time taking distance engineering courses from University of North Dakota (PLUG!!). But, I no longer work for jackasses either :D Keep at it, you'll also be glad you did it as well.

I take my sig line seriously, sleep is pretty much everything in terms of well being.

One thing that I wanted to mention here about getting sleep is water. Seriously, it seems that this is almost never mentioned as an important factor in the discussions I see on the topic yet it is crucial. I would even go so far as to say that not getting enough water could be the chief reason many do not sleep well. I know this to be true in my case for sure. Many times, if I do not make an effort to drink enough during the day, my sleep suffers at night. Dehydration is the enemy of sleep.

Robert Johnson
02-04-2009, 04:20 AM
Would becoming completely nocturnal help with the hormone issues?

Not really a suggestion, unless you adore Taxi Driver or nightclubs.