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What Should I Eat After Working Night Shift?
If you’re anything like me, I am so incredibly hungry after working a night shift. But which foods keep your belly satisfied and prevent unnecessary weight gain? Let’s find out.
What foods should I eat after working night shift?
- Oats with blueberries, banana and greek yogurt
- Sprouted bread
- Whole-grain toast with banana and peanut butter
- Kiwi fruit
- Homemade green smoothies
- Tart cherry juice
- Herbal tea, like chamomile, peppermint and passionfruit
- Warmed milk
- Toasted Sandwich with turkey
- Fatty fish, like salmon
Some of the items on the above list are pretty bland on their own and are not necessarily very exciting after a night shift, don’t you think?
Read on to discover how to make these items into a meal you look forward too, which will also help you sleep and stop you waking up with hunger pains.
Best foods to eat after a night shift
When suffering from “night shift brain”, as I often call it, making good food choices at 7.30am after working the 3rd shift is sometimes pretty tough.
Should I choose to reward myself with pancakes, eat the leftover pizza my husband stored in the fridge or should I cut up a banana and lay it on toast drizzled with honey?
The health experts say we should eat something if we’re hungry but never really say what.
I have created a list of food and meal ideas to enjoy after a night shift which not only look after your waistline but most will induce sleep in some way – which I think is super cool.
If you’re interested in knowing the sleep benefits of a meal or food which I have not included, just remember to choose foods which have “less energy and consist of a small amount of easy-to-digest ingredients” (1).
Here are some of the best foods to eat after a night shift.
- Warmed oats with blueberries and a dollop of Greek yogurt on top.
Oats are packed with complex carbs, fiber and protein which slowly deliver goodness over a few hours. Plus, oats can also help lower our risk of heart disease.
The blueberries actively help fat from forming and the Greek yogurt is jam-packed with protein and calcium, has precious probiotics and is excellent for the gut. Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and almonds is also a great meal choice.
Almonds are not only high in nutrients but they also provide a great source of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin.
- Sprouted Bread
The first time I had this I thought they messed up a brown bread, sourdough type recipe. However, I later found out they are totally different things!
As the name suggests this is whole-grain bread which has been given time to “sprout” or germinate.
- An apple
Don’t feel like a big, hot meal? Eat an apple.
Some state eating an apple before bed is not a good idea due to its ability to produce gas, making you severely uncomfortable when trying to sleep.
However, there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that eating an apple can actually help you sleep via the high amount of vitamin C, vitamin B6 and potassium.
- Whole-grain toast, banana, peanut butter, cacao bits, chopped pistachios and pomegranate seeds
As delicious as this sounds, you probably can’t be bothered, right? I got exhausted just reading the title.
What I simply do, is toast some whole-grain bread (generally one slice is enough), spread some crunchy, natural peanut butter like this delicious one from the Peanut Butter & Co. Smooth Operator Peanut Butter on Amazon. Then cut up a banana, drizzle honey or sprinkle some cinnamon on top. Delicious.
While bananas are thought to give athletes an energy booster, they also contain particular proteins and magnesium which can help give you a great days sleep.
I had NO IDEA kiwis were good before bed until very recently and boy, I wish I knew this sooner!
The pro’s in the sleep labs think that kiwi’s help us sleep due to their content of serotonin, a brain chemical that helps regulate your sleep cycle. And don’t fear the fury skin either – this is eatable and full of nutrients!
- Green Smoothie
If you would prefer to drink something after a night shift because you just can be bothered to even chew, I’ve got you covered.
A green smoothie packed specifically with spinach, nuts and seeds is rich in magnesium which relaxes your muscles and in turn, puts your body in a sleepy state.
By the way, it’s much better if you make these smoothies yourself over stopping off on the way home to pick one up. Despite the marketing and what the pretty “natural” store looks like, sugary syrups and juices are often added leading to that unwanted spike of alertness before bed.
- Cinnamon Apple Breakfast Barley
Why not swap out the oats for barley?
Although not overly common in our pantry, barley is packed with fiber which helps gut bacteria and also great for lowering cholesterol and encouraging weight loss.
This research article also highlights barley can improve our sleep quality which is exactly what we want after a night shift.
- Tart cherry juice
I can’t personally say I have tried this option but the research behind it seems impressive. Tart cherries have a high dietary melatonin concentration and have also shown to have anti-inflammatory effects “that may be beneficial in improving sleep quality”(3).
However, just be very careful on the brand you choose as the sugar content can be very high, causing your blood sugar to go through the roof before bed – which is not what we want.
If this a problem, enjoy a handful of fresh cherries instead and a few almonds for a great low carb, filling snack.
- Chamomile tea
I know this is not specifically a food but I wanted to add it in anyway. Lots of people need something to drink with your meal.
While we chat about herbal teas, peppermint tea and also passionflower tea (yeah, it’s a thing), all are incredibly powerful to calm the body and help induce sleep.
Chomping on a few walnuts after working a night shift is no way enticing to me, but if you throw in half a handful of chopped walnuts to my oats I’m all for it.
Walnuts are one of the BEST foods you can eat to induce that famous sleep hormone melatonin I keep mentioning. They are also linked to reducing high cholesterol and boosting your heart health.
- Hot milk
This is my go to after a tiny bowl of oats. Drinking this put me into a sleepy trance…. it is phenomenal.
Why? Milk (and also turkey) contain an amino acid, a type of protein called tryptophan which helps the body produce our sleep hormones and in turn, helps us sleep. There is contradicting evidence to suggest however, that the volumes of these proteins don’t actually impact our sleep hormones enough to help us sleep better.
What is now being concluded is drinking milk can help us sleep but for a totally different reason. It brings back amazing, calming, childhood memories of being fed milk as a kid. Mind over matter sometimes right?
- Toasted Sandwich
I love to eat something hot after night shift. I think it might either be totally mental or it has something to do with your body naturally cooling when it sleeps.
So indulging in a toasted sandwich with turkey (remember, it’s high in melatonin our sleep hormone), hummus, cottage cheese and spinach could be exactly what the doctor ordered!
- Fatty fish
Who doesn’t like some salmon at breakfast time?
Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, trout and mackerel are incredibly healthy and can even help induce sleep. Researchers think it has something to do with the high levels of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids which are thought to reduce inflammation.
Why does it matter what we eat after a night shift?
It’s a good question.
Why does it really matter what we eat after a night shift and before hopping into bed?
Here are some great reasons why:
- Avoid weight gain
I hate to remind you, but working the night shift has been proven to lead to high rates of obesity and even (I really hate to say this) cancer.
Making healthy food choices is critical, particularly for night shift workers because we are already behind the eight ball.
Other great reasons include;
- Less sleep disturbance as you won’t wake up feeling hungry
- Some foods can actually help put you to sleep
- Reduced chance of reflux
- Feeling hungry in bed can make you restless and distracted
So what foods should we avoid before bed, specifically after a night shift?
You should know the research in this area is pretty limited and there is not much for us to go by. But after doing some extensive research and from my own experience, this is what I came up with.
- “Bad carbs”
Pizza, french fries and burgers, for example, make this list.
I know the word “carbs” makes people feel like they are doing something wrong, but the truth is eat them in moderation and it’s okay. But they should be avoided before bed.
These foods are hard for your body to process, so stick to the food suggestions we gave earlier which can be easily digested.
I had no idea how bad these guys are for you. The media really skewed my perception of this seemingly harmless breakfast “snack.” They have 250 to 300 calories and a whopping 50 grams of carbs!
If you want bread, stick to the whole-grain type. If this type of bread is new to you, make the topping exciting, like avocado, hummus and an egg and you’ll forget all about it.
- Fruit juice
You may be feeling super dehydrated after working a night shift and would like nothing more than a big gulp of some OJ, but it’s just no good. Well, most of them anyway. Before you unscrew the lid, check out the label in the “added sugars” section and see what you discover.
I stay away from tomatoes just before bed, particularly after working nights because of the reflux.
If you don’t have an issue, carry on, but if you’re like me, save them for dinner before you leave for your next shift.
- Alcohol, coffee and energy drinks
We have talked about this many times before, but these items, particularly alcohol, may make you feel sleepy but you’ll be up in no time needing to pee.
What if I am not hungry after working a night shift?
I hear this a lot. What if I am just not hungry?
I recommend trying to eat something very small anyway.
The risk here is if you just go to sleep, there is a chance you could wake up only a few hours later with uncomfortable hunger pains in your belly.
And this will disrupt everything! Making falling back to sleep a tough task. You now not only have the light which is waking up your sleep hormones, but your body starts to naturally heat as it thinks you are ready to start a new day…when in fact you just want a quick snack and to sleep again.
In my opinion, save yourself the drama. Eating even half a piece of whole-grain toast and a herbal tea could do the trick. Nothing crazy.
There are endless options out there when it comes to foods that can put you in a state to sleep, even after a lengthy night shift.
Don’t skip this meal to avoid waking with hunger pains, as sleep disruption can also lead to weight gain and plenty more health concerns as we explain here. Nobody wants any of it!
Thanks for reading our post about what to eat after working night shift. What do you eat after a night shift? Let us know in the comments below.
This article was originally published on www.theothershift.com by author Emma.