Surviving the rigours of night shift along with early and late shifts is a battle fought by many shift workers around the world. In fact walking around in a zombie-like state is often regarded as being "the norm" when you have to work 24/7.
Having spent 17 years of my own life revolving around an alarm clock which would pierce the silence of my bedroom at the most inhospitable of hour, sleep deprivation became not only a way of life - but it was my life.
And along with sleep deprivation comes a multitude of other issues - weight gain, depression, loneliness and even a feeling of helplessness.
All in all not a particularly good way to live.
But after 17 years of working shift work and desperately trying to find a way to stay healthy yet keep sane at the same time - I came to the realisation that surviving the perils of shift work and keeping your head above water can be done if you apply what I like to call 'The Five Fundamentals of Shift Work'.
1. Be organised - if you're not organised then you need to be otherwise you're going to be struggling from day one. When you work a 24/7 roster there is no routine. Every day and every week is different so make things easier for yourself by getting organised the day before - it will save you a lot of heartache in the long-run. And when you apply these habits on a daily basis they will also help remove a lot of unwanted stress in your life which is definitely a good thing.
2. Make time for your friends and family - this is incredibly important. If you're not careful you can end up leading a lonely life when you work 24/7 so it's really important to find the time for friends and family. It can be a bit tricky around an erratic schedule but it can be done. Studies have shown people who live the longest have good social networks so make the effort to reconnect with your friends and loved ones.
4. Drink loads of water - water is hands down one of the easiest ways to help reduce the effects of chronic fatigue and the best part is it's free! As Dr Batmanghelidj outlines in his book 'Your Body's Many Cries For Water: You're Not Sick, You're Thirsty. Don't Treat Thirst with Medication' , most of the population today suffers from tiredness because of dehydration which can be fixed quite easily by drinking more water every day.
4. Fuel your body up with nutrition - you cannot expect to feel energised if your diet consists of predominantly fast food. Your body needs nutritious food to keep it going (even more so when you're running on next to no sleep) so only eat food which is going to energise you - not take it away. And that's exactly what take away food does - it takes it away, sapping your energy as your body struggles to digest the toxic over processed food.
5. Surrender to sleep - if you're tired then listen to your body. Nothing can replace sleep but a 20 minutes nap can make the world of difference as it allows your mind and body to switch off completely and re-energize. Just like you recharge your batteries when they get low, give your body a bit of a mini-boost by allowing it the time to recharge as well. It will thank you for even the smallest amount of sleep-time.
So don't spend your life gasping for breathe and drowning amongst the erratic hours of shift work. Apply the Five Shift Work Fundamentals above and not only will you be able to keep your head above water despite having to work irregular hours, but you'll also begin to feel much healthier and happier in your shift working job as well.