Nutrition Tips for Night Shift Workers

How to avoid gaining weight when working nights.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
4-minute read
Episode #170


  1. Time your exercise. Regular exercise can do a lot to increase your energy and regulate your body’s rhythms despite an odd work schedule. Take full advantage of the stimulating effect of exercise by scheduling your workout before your shift—and not right before you’re going to be trying to sleep. In addition, try to incorporate as much physical activity during work hours as your job will allow. Take the stairs instead of the elevator; stand instead of sit, take five or ten minutes of your break to do some calisthenics. (Also, check out Get Fit Guy’s 10 Minute Workouts.)

  2. See the light. Many of our biological rhythms—including our sleep and wake cycles--are keyed to light and darkness and this is the source of many of the problems faced by shift workers. One way to help your body cope with an inverted schedule is to expose yourself to bright light during the night. Replacing some of the bulbs in your work-place light fixtures with full spectrum light bulbs, which produce light more similar to natural sunlight, may be helpful. Then, make your bedroom as dark as possible or use an eye mask to block out the light when you are sleeping during the day. 

  3. Schedule time to sleep.  A lot of the health and diet issues that crop up for shift workers stem not from the fact that they work at night and sleep during the day but that they work and night and then don’t sleep during the day. One way to minimize the negative impact of night shift work is to be sure that you schedule—and fiercely protect—enough time to sleep. For most people, that’s 7-8 hours every 24 hours. As much as possible, avoid using your phone, computer, or other electronic devices before bed because the light they emit is particularly stimulating to the brain. If your sleeping environment is too noisy to allow you to fall and stay asleep, use a white noise generator or ear-plugs.

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Have a great week and remember to eat something good for me!


About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.