Working the night shift disrupts the body’s natural internal clock and sleep wake patterns.
Adopting healthy sleep habits can help you get the restorative rest you need to maintain energy and concentration on overnight shifts.
Prepping nutritious meals and snacks, maintaining an exercise routine, and managing stress can also help support sleep and a night work schedule.
Stress and sleep aids, such as Ashwagandha and Melatonin supplements, may help support with the making the transition to working nights and sleeping days easier.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 10% of working adults are assigned to evening or night shifts. Night work changes your circadian rhythm, which regulates your body clock, sleep patterns, digestion, body temperature, and other basic functions.
Your body’s natural sleep wake cycle is designed to respond to light and darkness to release melatonin, also known as the sleep hormone. Exposure to natural and artificial light keeps melatonin levels low, so you feel alert during the daytime. Darkness triggers melatonin release, which makes you feel sleepy and helps your mind and body wind down to rest overnight.
These patterns are reversed for individuals who regularly stay up to work overnight and sleep during the day, including night shift workers and nurses. Sleep is foundational to feeling and performing your best. Your energy level, mood, concentration, productivity, relationships, ability to manage stress, and long-term health rely on getting enough quality sleep.
Working nights can make it challenging to maintain a consistent sleep schedule, but incorporating healthy habits that support quality sleep, nutrition, and stress management can help you feel well-rested and enhance focus and productivity. Whether you occasionally work an overnight shift or are a dedicated night worker, these tips can help you learn how to work the night shift and stay healthy by optimizing sleep.
How do I go to sleep during the day?
Going from the bright lights of your office or computer screen to the morning sun can make it tough to feel like it’s time to go to sleep, even if you feel tired by the end of your shift. Making time for sleep during the day is crucial to restore energy between shifts and keep you mentally and physically healthy. Try these tips to help you get better sleep during the day.
1. Set a sleep schedule and stick to it.
It may be tempting to run errands or “start the day” as soon as you get off work, but the longer you delay sleep, the harder it can be to fall asleep. Try to go to bed as soon as you get home from work and sleep as long as you can.
When you’re preparing for the first shift in a block of night shifts, sleep as late as you can and make time for an extra nap during the day to help you transition.
2. Create an environment for sleep.
A dark, quiet, and cool sleep environment can help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Blackout curtains or shades and/or a sleep mask can help block out sleep disrupting daylight. Keep the television off and stash phones and tablets elsewhere so you aren’t tempted to scroll before you sleep.
If you live with other people or in a location with outdoor noise, a white noise machine or noise canceling earplugs can help mute distractions. Your body temperature naturally rises during the day, so a fan and/or cooling bedding can help keep you comfortable.
If you’re having trouble falling asleep after work, a sleep aid may help you get ready for bed. Sleep supplements that contain melatonin can help you prepare for bed at times when your body isn’t normally releasing melatonin. NatureMade® Extended Release Melatonin is designed to provide you with melatonin immediately and gradually to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep for longer. Those on medications or have health concerns should speak to qualified health professional before taking a Melatonin supplement. †
What can I do throughout the night shift?
Regulating your exposure to bright light, taking breaks, and managing caffeine intake during a night shift can help with energy during work and sleeping after your shift.
1. Wear blue light blocking glasses.
Sunlight, artificial light sources, and electronic devices emit blue light, which can disrupt circadian rhythm by stimulating brain activity and inhibiting the release of melatonin.  In other words, light keeps you up. That may be desirable to support energy levels at the start of a night shift, but exposure to bright light all night long will make it harder to fall asleep when you get off.
Consider wearing blue light blocking glasses, which are designed to shield your eyes from absorbing blue wavelengths. Wearing them during the second half of your night shift may be especially helpful as you prepare to head home and get some rest.
2. Limit caffeine intake.
Coffee and other caffeinated drinks can help keep you focused and alert on the job but drinking them all night long can keep you awake when it’s time to sleep. Limit caffeine intake to the first half of your night shift to make it easier to fall asleep when you get home.
3. Take breaks.
If you get breaks during work, use them to re-energize or rest as needed. When you need an energy boost, try gentle stretching or taking a short walk. Studies have found night workers who take even a 20-minute nap during their shift feel less sleepy and have enhanced productivity. 
4. Try supplements for stress support.†
Working nights introduces a new kind of stress into your life and night shift nurses and first responders who work overnight may face even higher levels of stress on the job. A stress support supplement can help you feel calm and relaxed, so you can more easily get the sleep you need afterwards.†
Options that can support your response to stress and sleep patterns include:†
Ashwagandha - an adaptogen that has been linked to lower levels of stress. † 
L-Theanine - a naturally occurring amino acid linked to relaxation without making you sleepy in the moment †
GABA - a neurotransmitter that slows nervous system activity, supports a calm mind. † 
What foods should I eat throughout the night shift?
What you eat can influence how you sleep, so a balanced diet is on the checklist for how to work night shift and stay healthy. It can be tempting to reach for a sugar or caffeine fix to power you through night work, but these foods don’t provide lasting energy and aren’t nutritious choices that support long-term health.
Healthy food choices are often limited during overnight hours. Night shift workers often have to rely on 24-hour fast food restaurants, convenience stores, and vending machines and access to fresh, wholesome meals may be limited. Filling up on sweets and greasy foods, like burgers, pizza, and fries, can upset your stomach and make you too uncomfortable to sleep when you get off work. High intakes of sugar and saturated fats have also been linked to disrupted sleep patterns. 
Your best bet is to pack enough healthy meals and snacks to fuel you through a 12 hour shift. Planning your meals at the start of the week can be a time saver and remove the guesswork of what to eat before, during, and after a shift.
Include complex carbs, such as fruits, veggies, and whole grains, for energy. Pair them with lean proteins and healthy fats for long-lasting energy. A sample work meal could be a green salad with chicken and avocado and snacks could be apple slices with peanut butter or a trail mix with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.
Some foods are natural sources of melatonin. Eating foods that provide you with Melatonin during a night shift may help support your sleep cycle. Foods to try include: 
Dried tart cherries or tart cherry juice
Remember to hydrate with water or other unsweetened beverages throughout your shift and limit the consumption of caffeinated coffee and energy drinks.
How can I care for my mental wellness while working the night shift?
Lack of sleep, the regular demands of your job, and being on a different schedule than friends and family can add up to increased stress for night workers. Prioritizing mood and physical self-care can help you manage the stress that comes along with working the night shift.
1. Exercise daily.
When you wake up for the day, plan time for movement. Daily physical activity can help lower stress levels and improve sleep quality. Taking walks or playing sports with others can also be a great way to stay connected with friends and family who keep different hours than you.
2. Practice mindfulness.
Working when most people are sleeping can add stress on top of the regular demands of your job. Mindfulness practices like breathwork, journaling, therapy, and meditation can help bring balance and self-awareness to your days. Some of these activities can also help you prepare for sleep by clearing your mind and relaxing your body. You can create a calming ritual by pairing a stress support supplement, such as ashwagandha, with a mindfulness activity.†
It may take some creative planning to have more social time when you work overnight, but staying connected with friends and family can support mood and emotional well-being. Try to share your first meal of the day after waking up with others or make plans on your days off.
You can also connect with other night shift workers in real life or online to support and learn from each other. Sharing daily routines and tips with people who have similar schedules can be especially helpful if you’re newly adjusting to shift work.
The Bottom Line
Night work takes some getting used to but getting intentional about your sleep schedule and adopting healthy habits that support mood and physical well-being can help you master working nights and sleeping days. If you’re wondering how to work night shift and stay healthy, these sleep-supporting tips can help you get the rest you need for restored energy between shifts.
† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Job Flexibilities and Work Schedules Summary. (n.d.). Retrieved May 9, 2023, from https://www.bls.gov/news.release/flex2.nr0.htm
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Sharon Lehman, RD is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and a health writer. She specializes in intuitive eating, recipe development, food photography, and hormone health. She shares healthy living tips and recipes on her blog www.heartandstove.com
Lynn is a Registered Dietitian (R.D.) and is a member of the Medical and Scientific Communications team at Pharmavite. She has over 20 years of experience in integrative and functional nutrition and has given lectures to health professionals and consumers on nutrition, dietary supplements and related health issues. Lynn frequently conducts employee trainings on various nutrition topics in addition to educating retail partners on vitamins, minerals and supplements. Lynn has previous clinical dietitian expertise in both acute and long-term care, as well as nutrition counseling for weight management, diabetes, and sports nutrition. Lynn earned a bachelor’s of science in Nutrition with a minor in Kinesiology/Exercise Science from The Pennsylvania State University. She earned a M.S. degree in Human Nutrition from Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Lynn is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Sports Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutritionists, Dietitians in Functional Medicine, and holds a certification in Integrative and Functional Nutrition through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.