Work the Night Shift without the Night Shift Working You

Many of my patients are night shift nurses struggling with weight loss.  They ask me how can I possibly lose weight while working a 12-hour night shift? Should I follow a specific diet plan for night shift workers?

First, a big thank you to all night nurses because let me tell you, working the night shift isn’t easy. Studies show night shift nurses sacrifice a lot personally and physically to take care of their patients. First, home life and social life are often affected. Family and friends are often on daytime schedules so your home and social life are a constant challenge which adds to stress.

On the health front more and more night shift nurses are being diagnosed with hypertension, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol and weight gain. It seems strange that someone working in the health field could be so unhealthy.

How can this be you ask? Here’s what it’s like to be a night shift nurse: Imagine you’re in a highly stressful work environment for 12 hours at a clip. During these 12 hours, you’re constantly on your feet, while multitasking in a highly detail-oriented environment so your brain and your body rarely get to rest.

You’re pretty much always sleep-deprived. Because you sleep during the day, your circadian rhythms are also probably disrupted which can influence hormone release and metabolic rate. Depending on the time of year, you probably go to work in the dark and come home in the dark.

On your days off you’re more than likely trying to catch up on your sleep. You’re probably too tired to grocery shop, much less cook or meal plan.


If you want to find a better balance of when to eat and what to eat while you’re working the night shift, check out our five nutrition tips to help with weight loss while you’re burning the midnight oil.

  1. Eat a high protein dinner right before starting your shift. Many people wait to eat until their shift has already started. You want to give your body time to turn those calories into energy.
  2.  Eat snacks throughout your shift. Low fat is key. Normally I tell my weight loss patients to make all foods fit into an overall weight loss plan. This is the exception because a high fat snack may make you feel tired and sluggish.
    3. End your shift with Carbs to help promote sleep.
    Hydration. Hydrate! It reduces fatigue and increases mental alertness.
    5. Caffeine. Caffeine before and during your shift will help to keep you alert but limit the sugar to avoid a crash. Stop caffeine intake 4-6 hours before the end of your shift.I’ve also included some tips to help with better sleep patterns:Tips for Transitioning from night shift to daytime on your last shift – There are two main ways you can switch:

    1. Sleep for 3-5 hours right after your shift
      • Example: you get done at 6 am you sleep from 7 am-10 am or 7 am-12 pm
      • Have activities planned after your sleep so you’re not tempted to go back to bed
      • Try using a wake-up sunrise-simulating alarm clock
    2. Stay awake for the day right after your shift
      • Stay busy
      • Try to be outside as much as possible
      • Go to bed early around 8 pm or 9 pm and get a full night’s rest
    3. Sleeping Tips
      • Use blackout curtains
      • Try the blue light blocking glasses if you’re going to read your phone or watch tv before bed. Your circadian rhythm (internal biological clock) is already confused with your sleep and wake schedule. Having the blue light from your phone or tv before you are trying to sleep during the day will confuse your clock even more.
      • Use earplugs
      • Use an eye mask.
      • Get the sunrise alarm clock so your body thinks the day is just beginning.Do you have more questions about this blog post or Dr. Charlie Seltzer’s weight loss program? Contact Us, and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours. 

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