A necessary part of some professions, shift work can disrupt your internal biological clock. The good news is that by taking small practical steps, you can enjoy your work and keep your health intact too. Shift work involves working outside the normal working hours of around 8 am to 6 pm.

“If you cannot avoid shift work, there are ways to reduce its health risks,” says Dr Fong Yuke Tien​, Senior Consultant and Director of Occupational Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine​, Singapore General Hospital​ (SGH), a member of the SingHealth​ group.

Tips to better cope with shift work

  1. Minimise working on continuous night shifts.

    Working on night shifts continuously for days and weeks in a row will change your sleep pattern and make it harder for you to get to sleep at your normal sleeping time

  2. Adhere to a set shift work pattern.

  3. A set shift work pattern means working the same number of hours and at the same time. This may help the body adjust better to the new work schedule.

  4. Get enough rest.

  5. Working continuously without a rest break to sleep will lead to fatigue. This will increase accident proneness and inattention. It will also lead to an increased sleep debt.

  6. Create a sleep-conducive environment.

  7. Keep your bedroom quiet and dark which is more conducive to sleep.

  8. Avoid caffeine and alcohol several hours before your scheduled bedtime.

  9. Caffeine and alcohol are stimulants that will keep you alert and prevent sleep. Shift workers who drink more than two cups of coffee and one glass of alcohol every day have poorer quality sleep than those who don’t.

  10. Stick to a fixed sleep schedule.​

  11. Try to sleep at about the same time every day if you are on night shift to help your body adjust to a new sleep schedule.

  12. Bring healthy snacks to your night shift.

  13. Eat healthy snacks such as fruits, and a diet high in vegetable content to curb your hunger. Avoid high-fat snacks, fried and spicy foods which are harder to digest at night and may cause gastrointestinal discomfort.

See next page to learn about shift work sleep disorder​ (SWSD).

Ref: T12