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Any night shifters out there?

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Hi everyone-today is my Day 15! I'm halfway there!


Things have been going pretty well and I keep learning a lot, but my biggest problem has been the fact that I am a shift worker. I work 3 12 hour night shifts.with an hour long commute each way, making me away from home about 14 hours 3x/week. On my days off, I have great success with meals, energy, mood swings, etc. which is wonderful!


The problem is during my work nights. I have finally kicked the "workouts must happen daily even if you sacrifice sleep" phase (not easy to do). I would sleep only 4-5 hours a day, train hard, then go back into work. It was a disaster! I kept telling myself in the long run I would be healthier. What a joke-I finally paid attention to what I was reading about stress hormones and what lack of sleep (especially for night shift workers and made the promise to make sleep a priority, especially between night shifts. I am not that great of a sleeper during the daytime, so I make every effort to make this as successful as possible. Melatonin, blackout shades, sleep mask, white noise machine, the works! It has been the most rested I have been in a long time of working nights.


So since I have (sort of) conquered the sleeping issue, I have noticed that I have issues with when to eat while switching back and forth to a normal schedule (with a family it isn't realistic that I stay on a modified night shift schedule). For example, last week I worked 2 shifts in a row. These are the times I ate:


Woke up at 9:30am ( slept 10 hours well!)


breakfast of eggs, compliant sausage, homemade slaw with avocado dressing, olives (at 1pm)


attempted a nap with minimal success (3pm)


dinner of a bowl of chicken chili with cherries (6pm)


snack at work of a larabar (10pm)


dinner at work chicken chili, coffee with coconut milk and coconut oil (3am)


commute snack of larabar and almonds (8am)


home at 9:30am, sleep from 10 until 4:30 (felt ok upon waking, not great but not like I had been run over by a truck)


breakfast of a Trilogy kombucha (I try and drink these when I work at night to help digestion), big salad with leftover grassfed steak, a whole cucumber and some olives  (5:30pm)


snack at work of larabar with almonds (10pm) Yes I know this isn't ideal, but I can't always stop to eat a meal when I want


dinner at work of leftover chicken chili, basil leaves with grape tomatoes (2am)


commute snack of (another) larabar (9am)


sleep from 10am-12:30pm, then get up to take my son to an amusement park


"breakfast" of guacamole, compliant pepperoni, and carrots (1pm)


I totally realize my dependence on larabars is out of control and I have made plans to rectify this in the upcoming week. However, I am often not hungry AT ALL when I first wake up, so I don't always eat a ton between shifts or I get nauseous. My water intake has been spot on, but as a busy nurse, I can't always have a traditional "mealtime". This can cause me to have big moods swings and go from being not hungry at all to super hangry with major sugar cravings. I know I am trying to be better about protein with each meal, but it isn't always possible. Am I failing?


Anyone with any input please help! I am trying my best, but I look forward to any advice! Also, sorry for the long rant-as a night shifter I know the cards are already stacked against me, especially hormonally, so I want to head off these problems whenever possible. Thanks!




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If you haven't already found it, you should look into nomnompaleo.com's blog -- she was, until very recently, a graveyard shift hospital pharmacist, and has several posts about how she made it work for her. This post in particular had a lot of information, but she's done other posts besides that one.


This question has come up before on the forums, google Whole30 night shift and you should get a lot of links to past conversations.


As far as not being hungry when you first wake up, the only way to fix that is to eat when you first get up. Even if you can't eat a whole meal when you first wake up, eat something. Over time, it should get easier -- although I'm sure the fact that you sleep and wake at different times means it will take a little longer to adjust.


Good luck!

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Hi Bamjkay!


I am also a night shift worker (3 12s a week - 7pm-7am).  When I started my w30 back in April (yes, I am still on it - day 80) I was working 4-6 shifts a week because we were short staffed.  Crazy schedule.


Anyway, one of the hardest things to do is manage that eating schedule.  Eating at work is hard enough.  I work in an intermediate level nursery and we only staff one nurse per shift (we have 1-4 babies at a time).  So, when it is crazy busy, I am lucky to get a bathroom break, let alone a meal break or two!


This is what works for me:

  • First, I try to schedule several shifts in a row so I am not swapping by body back and forth too much.  
  • Second, sleep is a priority.  I also used to go work out after getting off work in the morning.  I also don't sleep as well during the day.  This combination means that if I went to bed later, I still woke up at the same time, which means less sleep.  Instead, I began to do my workout when I woke up in the afternoon.  (Granted my exercise level has left a lot to be desired with all the overtime, but since the OT is done and I am getting back on that exercise wagon again).  Sometimes I had a couple hours to work out, sometimes only 30 minutes.  One thing I have found with w30 is that I sleep better, so I am not as exhausted with less sleep.
  • Third, plan your meals, cook before your stretch and pack it in the fridge.  You could even do this with family meals.  Think how much time is saved if you only have to take the chicken and veg (or whatever) out of the fridge and warm it through instead of preparing and cooking.  (This also gives you more time to sleep)  
  • When you take things to work, think of things that are quick to eat.  Also, think of things that are ok if they sit out for an hour.  Many times, I have eaten a meal one bite at a time between caring for patients.  (After an hour or so of that, I will give up and throw it away if I am not starving)


So, heres my plan of attack:


On the day I start my night shifts, I eat breakfast at the usual time. Lunch is pushed a little late, maybe around 2pm.  Then I try to take a nap (since going w30, its been harder to nap in the afternoon).  I take two meals with me that night, one to have around 10 pm, then the next one around 4am.  All told, 4 meals for that "day".  I rarely eat when I get home, but if I am hungry that first morning, I will have a "mini meal" - i.e. 1 or 2 eggs with some baby carrots so I am not trying to sleep on an empty stomach.


Depending on when I wake up depends on whether or not I work out.  If I am up early enough, I will have a pre work out snack first, then a post work out snack after.  If I don't wake up, I will have a meal when I get up.  If I am lucky enough to sleep until 5pm (which has happened) I will wait and eat at work.


If I have eaten at home, I take two meals to work with me and eat around midnight and 5-6am.  If I have not eaten at home, I take three meals, eating at 730 (right after report), 1am and 6am.  Home and right to bed to sleep.


When I finish a stretch, I only get two meals in, so I try to make them really count.  My first one is when I wake up in the afternoon, and then the second is a dinner time.  I try to up my amounts just a little bit to make up for what I would be missing.  For example, if I usually have 1 hamburger patty, I have 1 1/2.  Instead of 3-4 eggs, I have 4-5.  I add an extra spoonful of avocado or olive maybe.  I add a tiny bit more veg....  you get the idea.


Of course, my kids are teenagers and I don't think this would have worked quite as well if I had small kids to take care of during the day as well.  I have been night shift nursing for 18+ years and when my kids were little life in general was harder, let alone set mealtimes.  Granted, I wasn't as concerned for my health either.


When I first started w30, I would pack snacks to eat as well as my meals "just in case".  After all, its not like you can just run to the cafeteria if you are hungry and need to eat.  (I think hospital cafeterias are worse than fast food places - and twice as expensive - but that's another soap box).  I found, after a while, that I wasn't eating them so I eventually stopped packing them.  


Play around with your timing and see what works for you.  In the ILN, I know when my "down times" are.  I know that they can also be different from floor nursing (those babies just have different schedules from the adults).  When I work out on L/D floor, I sometimes have to modify my eating times.  


I have been following your log - looks like you had a good time at the amusement park despite little sleep!  After 18 years of this, I almost can't do that anymore - but have to admit that being active helps - its just the drive home that is near to impossible :)


Good luck to you!

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Kmlynne-your response just made my day! I am a clinical supervisor in a level 3 NICU myself-how awesome that you get to take care of the tiny patients too :)


I definitely try to keep my nights together and I think my issue is I am mostly tired, not hungry, since I just want sweet things that are easy to eat. I know now it is really my mind wanting me to go back to my old habits. But it will not happen!!!! I have already noticed that I no longer have a serious case of 'cankles' when I leave in the mornings and my sleep is certainly the best it's ever been during the daytime. I am hopeful that after the initial 30 day period, if I decide to continue my w30 until whenever, I will implement exercise back into my routine. BUT it will not come at the expense of sleep anymore ,that's for sure!


I know my overall planning could be better, but I usually make a giant meal for my family with thoughts that I'll have plenty left over to take to work, but my boys (ages 10 and 15) think it's a free-for-all! Then I'm left scrambling for something to take with me. And by the time I get to eat it, it is often unappetizing! 


So, first plan is to plan and pack better. I hate canned fish/tuna/etc, so I did find some compliant almond butter that I think could get me through in a pinch. I know my reliance on the larabars will only drag me on a path I don't want to go!


Thanks so much again for your insight-I will absolutely be putting some of your tricks of the trade to good use. I knew my eating habits at work were bad, but the whole30 cemented that fact for me lol!


Thanks for peeking in on my log-I am trying to be diligent in logging everything to reference in the future.


As far as the amusement park goes, I ended up falling asleep while the boys played in the waterpark in the blazing sun. I got a giant dose of Vitamin D and a pretty horrendous sunburn :/ Oh well! 


Night shifters unite! :P

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Oh you bring back memories of when I would take the kids to an amusement park and I would fall asleep in the water park. I always sprinted there as soon as the gates opened so I could get a chair in the shade!

I started nursing in adult ICU (cardiac surgical trauma) and moved to NICU about 13 years ago. When our healthcare system opened a new hospital nearer to my house I jumped at the chance. At first, I was there to attend deliveries and support sick babies for transport. After about a year of that (being only one of three nurses on staff), I was privileged to help design and open a level 2 NICU (the hospital likes to call it an ILN so people don't confuse it with the N ICU up the street - go figure). We now staff 1 RN 24/7. Being the only nurse on has its challenges :). It takes getting used to!

Sounds like you and I are even more alike - I no longer get such bad swelling in my legs by the end of a stretch of nights too!

The sugar cravings that come at night when you are tired do eventually go away. Promise :)

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How funny- I also started in adult critical care and have waffled between cardiac specialties and the NICU for the last 11 years. Either way, I've never been the lone nurse ever. I can't imagine the challenges that can bring!


I am not working back to back shifts until next week (I took some time off for our county fair-my oldest shows his horse), so I can't wait to put some of these methods to the test! Although the nights can get pretty late at the fair, too!


My cravings are already better (during the day anyway), so I'm hoping it was just part of the process :)

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Hi, I work in television and also work nights 5p-2am with hour long commute. I never know exactly when I'll be able to sit and eat, but i usually eat breakfast at home, pack lunch(which is really dinner) and eat a light dinner when I get home. I'm a sugar addict for sure and like bamjkay I always want sweets especially before and after work. 


I'm on day 9 of whole30 and cravings are really intense. I'm finding that I relying on fruits way to much to get the sweet taste. My sleep has improved as far as quality of sleep, but 7 hrs max of sleep.


I also highly recommend nomnompaleo.com not only does she understand shift work and a family, she has awesome recipes that taste excellent!

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  • Whole30 Certified Coach

I'm so glad you guys started this thread!  I'm a new nurse (graduated in June - just passed the boards :) ) and I'm on orientation for days but will soon go to nights.  I've done a W60 and am just cruising right now at about 80-90% W30 but when I switch to nights I want to start another W30 to keep my little fingers out of the graham crackers and PB... 


I was wondering if either of you have used magnesium or melatonin to help with sleep and what your experiences have been.  I'm usually sound asleep by 9 PM so this is going to be tough for me... :/

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My advice would be to NOT use any supplements to help you sleep unless you absolutely need it. Once you start relying on them, you will have to have them.

Know that it will take some time for your body to learn to adjust to nights. If you have flexibility in your schedule, try different things - like most of your shifts in a row versus all spread out. Try two in a row versus 3 or more in a row. Are you working twelves or eights? That will change how you sleep. Do you have husband/so or kids? That will affect things too.

Doing a w30 while you adjust is great. I have found I sleep better when I eat better. I also avoid caffeine during the night. I found that when I did have it, I ended up not being able to sleep in the am. However, I never drank much to begin with. If you drink caffeine normally, it might not affect you much!

In the middle of the night when I am sleepy, I try not to sit - it's easier to stay wake!

Good luck and welcome to night shift!

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Congrats littleg!!  Welcome to nursing-I am so excited for you :) What kind of unit will you be working on?


Kmlynne has some great suggestions to consider! I have already created some back habits unfortunately;/


I do actually take melatonin, especially when I work back-to-back and then the night I switch back to a normal schedule. It is a low dose, but otherwise I truly am such a light sleeper it would be tough to get any type of quality sleep. But maybe I can adjust my use since my sleep has been better on the w30...something to think about


I know I should try to cut out the caffeine, but I have't as of yet. But I definitely limit myself to only allowing it the first part of my shift, which seems to work ok. One day maybe I'll give it up for good!


Best of luck-I can't wait to hear how it goes for you!



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  • Whole30 Certified Coach

Thanks for the responses!  I'm on a general pediatric floor - really enjoying it so far (in that sort of totally overwhelmed/feel like I don't know anything sort of way!).  


We've got our room pretty much blacked out.  With the window AC in I hope I'll have enough white noise to block out the Harley my neighbor has and the lawnmowers, etc... Right now I drink coffee in the AM so I'll probably stick with coffee when I first get up and then stop after 8 or 9 PM which is basically what I do now (no coffee after breakfast - just to wake up).  I do take magnesium from time to time to sleep - if anything I'd start with that before melatonin.  


I also hope to have a little flexibility in how my nights are chunked.  I'll be doing 3 12s which I think will be better than 8s or a mix of 12s and 8s.  Gotta wait and see I guess :)  I'm clinging to the glimmer of hope that maybe I'll just LOVE nights... you never know I guess!

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Good luck @littleleg! It sounds like you have thought things through for sure! I personally do love nights-it's just that my body doesn't feel the same ;)


I am almost proud to note that I actually listened to my body (for once) post-night shift. I worked Thursday night, came home and slept for about 4-4 1/2hrs. I woke up and was super grouchy! I attributed this to being hungry since I was too tired to eat before bed, but after I ate the feeling was still there. Plus a headache :( So I decided to put myself back to bed and I slept for another 2 1/2 hours! I thought this meant I'd be up half the night, but to my surprise I slept until 9am the next morning-WHAT?!?!? Unheard of! Then that night, I was in bed by 11 and slept nearly 12 more hours! This is awesome! I feel like I am actually able to tune in and hear what my body is telling me. And then I am listening and following along! WOOHOO!! Breakthrough alert! 


I was just so excited, I had to share :)

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I about to start my first set of nights on W30 and I'm a bit worried.


Today is Day 3 and I'm not sure I'm going to be able to resist all the sugary treats at work in the middle of the night when I'm tired & wanting a sugar hit. I'll pack lots of compliant food & my best will power. I hope I can get through this!

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You can do it!! I was tempted at first myself, especially when I was so very tired,  but I packed plenty of snacks/meal options and told all of my coworkers what I was doing (after some goodnatured teasing, they were pretty supportive and have been ever since!). Let me know how it goes-I'm on my first of a 3 night stretch :)

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Thanks @bamjkay

I've packed so much food it's a bit ridiculous but I'm determined & I don't want to be caught short! Especially at this stage as I really just want to stuff as many cookies/chocolates/cakes into my mouth as possible! I've emptied my wallet so I have no money for the snack machines & plan to lock the staff room door :)

I've got 2 boiled eggs, some prawns, olives, a big yummy salad, chilli con Carne & cauliflower rice, celery & carrot sticks, 5 cherries & a packet of peppermint tea! Hopefully I won't need all of it to get me through!

I'll let you know how it went tomorrow. Have a good night :)

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I work nightshift too.  I'm a L&D RN.  I bring SO MUCH FOOD to work and I usually eat about 85% of what I bring.  I pre chop cucumbers, pepppers, carrots and tomatoes.  I am trying to cut down on the amount of fruit I eat but it is so easy to throw into the cooler!  I also love the canned wild salmon from Costco, avocadoes, hard boiled eggs and La Croix flavored sparkling water. 


I have been working nights for 5 years.  I have 2 young kids (4.5 yo and 7mo).  I am breastfeeding exclusively.  I still have not figured out the best eating rhythm, especially for my first night on.  This post was helpful but I have just resigned to the fact that it varies.  Some days I need more than others and vice versa. 

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I did it and survived.


I had three meals over the course of the day plus a snack of prawns when I got home before I went to sleep. The first night I missed the snack. Hunger woke me up and I wanted to devour anything. I had two pre prepared boiled eggs instead. So the next two nights I had a snack before I went to sleep. This meant I slept longer and wasn't a crazy hungry cow when I woke up.


During the night shift itself I didn't have any snacks. I had a "lunch" just before I went into work and then a nice big dinner (chilli con carne with cauli rice, cherries and some olives two nights and the same but green thai curry the middle night). I didn't even feel like snacking. It helped that I was super busy so I really didn't a chance anyway! I did have a few peppermint teas when it got quiet along with my water.


I pretty pleased that it went so well. I have envisions of me climbing the walls or crying in the corner like a crazy woman!! 


Now to get through the weekend...

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi everyone,

I'm a total newbie- I plan to begin my Whole30 on August 13. I also work 3rd shift, but just a modified 3rd: from 9 pm to 4 am. I come home and go right to bed and usually get up around 11:00 if possible. I also only work 4 nights so the other days I have a normal sleeping and waking schedule. I teach one day a week. 


SO...most unfortunately I know I'm going to have a rough time at work because I work in food service (getting back into the workforce after 17 years at home and homeschooling). There is FOOD EVERYWHERE. To top it all off I work in the employee cafe at a chocolate factory. I feel doomed sometimes before I have even started.


But I have a great resolve. My biggest concern is that my job is really boring and I am not exceedingly busy so the temptation is huge. I anticipate my hunger cravings will subside and I won't  always be hungry at work and there are a few items I can eat - I can have hard boiled eggs and salad from the salad bar.


It's just that the weirdness of the hours will put me at about 15 hours between meals if I eat before work (about 8:00 pm) and then not again until I get up about 11:00 am. So, do you recommend eating a small meal at work, and about what time? 


Thanks for your advice! 

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Long time night shift and rotating shift person here too :)


Things that worked (and didn't work) for me:


Plan out your hours and meals, you won't always stick to them, but it's too easy to lose track if you don't.

Baked egg cups - portable, variable, can be eaten hot or cold.

If the choice is exercise or sleep, pick the sleep.

If you find you're reaching for sugary things or bad things in desperation, you may not be getting enough sleep or nutrients.

Watch your coffee intake, try not to have any in the second half of your shift if it interferes with sleep.

Watch your sugar intake, you can end up on a blood sugar rollercoaster (Lara Bars etc) which makes you more hungry, tired and reaching for more sugar. Try to have a good amount of fats with sugars, to help soften the hit to your blood sugar.

If you're often on a tight-timeframe for eating, pay attention to what foods are quick to eat and what isn't (I take forever to eat salad, or I fling it everywhere lol) to be sure you eat all your food.

Eating enough fat - when I didn't, it really impacted my energy levels.

Something higher in carbs usually helped me get sleepy, so if you eat when you get home, perfect time for sweet potato :)

I needed magnesium supplements (not for sleeping) to avoid restless legs

There's some great soothing music around (like the MindTuner app for iPhone) which can help during commutes or before sleep.


Light! Get some of those blue blocker glasses and avoid using backlit screens on your commute, when you get home, before you go to bed (tvs, monitors, smart phones, etc). On the flip side, these same items can help you wake up :)

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  • Whole30 Certified Coach

Hi again!  So I have two more days on day orientation and then its off to night shift :/  Just looking for some advice (what else is new!).  Tips for sleeping schedules...


I work Tues 7P-7A and then Thurs and Fri 7P-7A.  I was thinking of doing the following:


Mon night - sleep normally, but don't sleep in.  Try to go to bed early and be out of bed by 5 or 6 AM (which is my usual right now).  Take some magnesium around noon (I'm going to try this today to make sure I feel ok 8 hours later - I've never taken it during the day!) and then try to get a nap in during the early afternoon.  Work 7P to 7A.  


No idea how to handle the random 24 hours off...  My assumption is I'll actually have been up for 24 hours at this point since it is my first time ever, in my life... staying up all night.  So I'm thinking I should just sleep as best I can...?  And then try the nap thing again Thursday afternoon?


Also - Ambien.  I've taken it a few times when I've had some bouts of insomnia.  I've never had a problem taking it a few times and then stopping.  I've always felt ok upon waking - no hungover sort of feeling.  Have any of you guys used it?


Thanks again!

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My suggestion to you is to not jump immediately to the magnesium and/or the ambien - unless you normally use them.

Your plan for Tuesday sounds great. Don't be surprised if you don't nap well - just turn everything off, make the room as dark as you can and close your eyes.

On Wednesday, you will probably sleep ok in the morning, but you may not sleep all day. It's ok. Get up in the afternoon and have a quiet day. Go to bed Wednesday night and sleep. On Thursday, get up when you wake up, then take a nap in the afternoon. When you have a night off inbetween two nights working, be kind to yourself and sleep as much as you can.

On Friday, sleep as long as you can. If you wake up early, have a quiet afternoon to rest. Let yourself fall back to sleep (at least a doze) if you can.

When you are working, try not to rely on caffeine or other stimulants - especially after say men or 2 am. Even if you are "used" to caffeine, it can affect you when you are trying to sleep during the day.

If you find that you just can't sleep, then try magnesium or ambien.

If you have a chance to play with your schedule, try different combinations. I found that it is easiest for me to work all my nights in a row, even if it means I work 5-6 together. However, when my kids were small, I needed to split my shifts up sinc I was up with them all day after working all night.

Good luck to you!

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Does anyone have advice for someone who has to work 24 hour shifts? I'm a medical resident and I typically work 1-2 twenty four hour work days a week.  I'm actually staring down a week with three next week.  I am seeing less than stellar results with this W30 and I'm attempting to tweak over the next two weeks until the end but that includes eliminating snacking I've been forced to do over the course of my longer work days. 


I was thinking of eating four meals on my 24 hour day and then only 2 meals during my post-call day.  Anyone with any advice? I'm sure this flies in the face of just about everything I'm supposed to do but call is not an option.  Should one of them be a mini meal? I have recently learned about Epic bars that I think that might be helpful and new and novel, I just don't want to be tired and hungry when I have someone's life in my hands (just kidding, well maybe mostly kidding). Thanks! 

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You are better off with a mini-meal that fits the template, than an off-kilter snack like a piece of fruit or a bar, this helps to keep your blood sugar even and give well-rounded nutrition.


How does a 24 hour shift work? Do you get multiple breaks? Any sleep in there?

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