How to prepare for a night shift: complete guide

Nicholas Kira

3 August 2023

9 min read

Working a night shift can be a rewarding experience, including increased rates of pay for unsociable hours, but it comes with its challenges.

This blog post covers everything you could wish to know about how to prepare for a night shift, including; night shift tips, how to sleep after a night shift, and how to work night shifts and stay healthy.

So whether you’ve decided to take on a handful of night shifts or you’re looking to work nights for the foreseeable future, we’ll tell you how to ensure your health, wellbeing, and productivity remain intact during these unconventional hours.

Read on for essential tips and strategies to help you thrive while working night shifts.

How to prepare for night shifts

Adjusting your sleeping cycle

You cannot just switch to working night shifts and hope that your body and mind will simply adapt straight away. Instead, you should prepare for a night shift (or night shifts) by gradually changing your sleeping pattern to align with the new hours.

Abruptly switching from a daytime schedule to working during the night can lead to sleep deprivation and exhaustion, affecting your overall performance and wellbeing, so it’s best to adopt a gradual approach to adjusting your sleep cycle.

Start this process several days before your first night shift, by moving your bedtime and waking hours by 30 minutes to an hour each day until you reach the desired schedule. This will help your body and mind to adapt to the changes more smoothly, allowing your internal clock to reset gradually. In doing this, by the time you start your first night shift, your body will be used to the new routine, and you’ll be better prepared to handle the challenges that come with working during the night.

The best nutritional routine for night workers

Night shift work can often lead to somewhat disorganized eating patterns, with a potential impact on your energy levels and overall health. But there are things you can do to maintain peak performance during your shift(s):

Eating and drinking habits

1. Plan your meals: it’s all too easy, in the wee hours of the morning, to reach for something quick and sugary… but then comes the crash that follows.

Instead, prepare and pack nutritious meals and snacks to take with you to work. Opt for a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

2. Timing those meals: think about the timing of your meals before and during your night shift. For example, it’s best to avoid heavy meals close to the start of your shift, as this could make you feel sleepy.

Once you’re actually on shift, stick with lighter meals and snacks throughout the night, to maintain energy levels.

3. Stay hydrated: this is possibly the most important point of the three when it comes to how to work a night shift and stay healthy. Maintaining proper hydration is essential for your wellbeing. It’s simple enough to do – just bring a reusable water bottle to work and set reminders to drink water regularly. Dehydration can lead to fatigue and decreased concentration, so staying hydrated is essential for peak performance.

Why you should keep active if taking on night shifts

Exercise is always good for you, whenever you can fit it in, but it’s particularly important as part of a healthy lifestyle for night workers, and here’s why…

Exercise and physical activity

Regular exercise is known to help improve your energy levels and overall wellbeing – a good old release of endorphins to make you feel better. Consider working out before your night shift to boost alertness and mood.

You don’t have to go overboard and start powerlifting at midnight, but you could go for a brisk 20-minute walk, or maybe do some squats and jumping jacks.

Exercise increases blood flow, elevates your mood, and enhances cognitive function, all of which will help you during night shifts.

However, the opposite is true if you’re trying to get to sleep. Avoid intense workouts right before bedtime, as they may interfere with your ability to fall asleep.

Plan your exercise routine in advance, to allow your body enough time to wind down before bedtime.

Caffeine intake on night shifts

Everyone knows that caffeine can help you stay alert and focused, which is of particular importance if you’re going to work throughout the night, but, as the old saying goes: everything in moderation. So, manage your caffeine intake to help you thrive on a night shift.

Caffeine can help, but…

Another top tip for working night shifts is to keep a watchful eye on your caffeine consumption – that’s coffee, tea, sodas, and obvious things like energy drinks.

While moderate caffeine intake can help you thrive during a night shift, by keeping you alert and keeping drowsiness at bay, you need to use it with caution.

Ultimately, caffeine is a stimulant so it’s best not to rely on it excessively to keep you going, as it could make you feel a bit anxious or jittery.

Another thing to bear in mind is that caffeine builds up in your system, so try not to drink anything caffeinated at least four hours before you plan to get home and try to sleep. It’ll allow you to rest easier when you actually need to.

How to work night shifts and stay safe

If you’re going to work night shifts, you need to be able to do so safely – It’s of paramount importance.

Consider your safety

We couldn’t offer tips for working night shifts, without taking your safety into consideration. Working at night offers up safety issues, such as having to work in the dark, along with the possibility of fatigue.

To combat this, your employer should provide decent lighting, enabling you to perform your duties properly. Some employers may even offer regular breaks and advise you against working too many consecutive night shifts, to avoid burnout.

And you’ll need to think about your commute after your shift. Consider carpooling or using public transport, if available. Why carpooling? Because it can help in terms of the fatigue associated with driving alone. If carpooling isn’t an option, and you need to drive yourself, just be extra cautious and vigilant on the road, particularly if you’re feeling tired.

Talking to people and creating a network when working night shifts

Communication and support image It can be tricky, balancing night shifts with everyday life, so make sure you communicate with those around you – from family and friends, to co-workers.

Communication and support

Working night shifts can sometimes feel isolating, as you’re awake in the small hours, when many others are asleep.

To help with this feeling, make sure you share your night shift schedule with your friends and family. Let them know about your availability and sleep hours, so they understand and respect your unique working schedule, and realize that you may be tired at times when they’re up and about.

Outside of your friends and family, make an effort to connect with fellow workers while on shift, or through social networks. It’ll help to have a network of people who understand the challenges and benefits of working during the night.

You can share experiences, swap tips, and offer each other encouragement, creating a sense of togetherness and giving you a well-deserved boost.

How to work night shifts and still have a social life

Just because you work what many people would deem to be unsociable hours, doesn’t mean you have to skip your social life!

Speak to your loved ones to see how you can fit things around your work schedule and work out the best daily routine as a night worker.

Navigating social and family obligations

Managing social and family obligations while working night shifts requires effective communication, planning, and understanding on both sides.

Plan ahead with family members, to find mutually convenient times for gatherings, special occasions, or essential family activities. Taking this approach should help avoid any disagreements, while still allowing you to participate in significant events and have some sort of social life.

With your time during the day being more valuable, consider using technology to stay in touch with people, even if you’re not available to meet in person. Video calls, texts, or even social media platforms can help maintain meaningful connections with friends and family.

As previously mentioned, make sure you set boundaries with your loved ones regarding your sleep schedule to help them understand your needs and support your wellbeing.

In summary, just remember that flexibility and understanding from both sides is essential. By striking a balance and communicating openly, you can easily manage social and family obligations while working night shifts.

Sleep… again

The importance of creating a calming sleep ritual, as a night shift worker

So you’ve finished your night shift, you’ve worked hard, and now you want to go home and rest.

It might not be as simple as putting your head on the pillow and nodding off, so establishing a good pre-sleep routine might be a good idea – a sleep ritual.

This could involve a number of relaxing activities to do before going to bed. They could include:

  • Reading a book
  • Mediating
  • Having a chamomile tea or a warm, milky drink
  • Taking a warm bath
  • Breathing exercises
  • Using sleep apps
  • Listening to relaxing music or the sound of rainfall

These calming activities should help train your body to recognize when it’s time to sleep, making it easier to fall asleep and rest during the day.

Our best tips for night shift workers: in summary

At Indeed Flex, we like to offer our workers choice in terms of when they work, so they can choose hours that suit their lifestyle.

That’s why we offer the chance to work night shifts, with roles available across the industrial (warehouse operative, assembler), retail, hospitality (cook, bartender) and facilities management sectors, offering all manner of opportunities

But successfully navigating the world of working night shifts requires preparation. By gradually adjusting your sleep schedule, maintaining a healthy balanced diet, staying hydrated, exercising, managing caffeine intake, staying safe, communicating, and balancing your work and social life, you can perform to the best of your abilities during the night.

There’s no doubt that working during the night presents unique challenges, but with the right approach, you can thrive as a night shift worker.

Remember, above all, your wellbeing comes first. By following what we’ve outlined in this post, you’ll be well-equipped to master night shifts in the future.  

Download the Indeed Flex app today and benefit from a world of temporary work opportunities across all different industries and employers.