What to chow on when working the graveyard shift

There are ways to stay alert to avoid sluggishness creeping in

By Author  |  Published: 12th Aug 2019  4:29 pm

A simple snack is the best choice for maximising alertness and productivity on night shift, suggests a study. The study published in the journal Nutrients tested the impact of a snack, a meal or no food at all and concluded that a simple snack was the best option to stay alert on night shift.

“In today’s 24/7 economy, working in the night shift is common, with many industries like health care, aviation, transport and mining require 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.

Working at night-time conflicts with a person’s internal circadian clock, making it harder to stay focused and awake. Managing fatigue is therefore, critical for workplace health and safety.Over a seven-day simulated shiftwork protocol, the study assessed the impact of three eating conditions, a meal comprising 30 percent of energy intake over a 24-hour period, for example, a sandwich, muesli bar, and apple; a snack comprising 10 percent of energy intake, for example, just the muesli bar and apple; and no food intake at all, each consumed at 12:30 am.

The 44 participants were randomly split into the three test-conditions and were asked to report on their levels of hunger, gut reaction, and sleepiness. The results showed that while all participants reported increased sleepiness and fatigue, and decreased vigour across the nightshift, consuming a snack reduces the impact of these feelings more so than a meal or no food at all. The snack group also reported having no uncomfortable feelings of fullness as noted by the meal group.