Intended for healthcare professionals


What should I eat on my night shift?

BMJ 2019; 365 doi: (Published 16 May 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;365:l2143
  1. Abi Rimmer
  1. The BMJ

On a busy night shift, eating healthily is not always a top priority. But, as three experts tell Abi Rimmer, eating well at night can maintain your energy and have long term benefits

Planning ahead is your friend

Martin Kohlmeier, director of the Human Research Core at the University of North Carolina’s nutrition research institute, says, “The effect of a disrupted sleep cycle on energy metabolism is real but of modest size. In the end, it’s about the practicalities of food access, convenience, and the time demands of the shift. Planning ahead is your friend. Your first thought should be hydration—go for water and other calorie free drinks because you will need a lot of it. Dehydration, paradoxically often from too much caffeine, is a common cause of fatigue.

“Before your shift, eat a main meal with whole grains and other complex starches to curb your hunger and cravings.

“Take your own food with you so that you don’t fall into the delivery service and vending machine trap. Convenience foods typically contain extra calories, sugar, saturated fat, and salt, but do not keep you full for long. Sugary and salty …

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