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My husband eats mostly AIP, but because he decided to eat the same foods as me, rather than because he has an autoimmune disease. And I was chatting with him the other day about whether or not it's tough trying to eat healthily and look after your sleep patterns when you're working night shifts. I mean, heading off to work and doing your job some nights while the rest of us are snoozing warmly in our beds must make it more difficult to get enough sleep. On top of that, you have to eat healthily, too.
So how do you do paleo (or AIP for that matter) if you're working the late shift?
The good news is that it's not impossible.
You just have to work at it a bit more than everyone else.
The first thing is that your sleep patterns are going to be a bit compromised. In Go To Bed, the ebook and sleep program by Sarah Ballantyne (The Paleo Mom), she talks about how important circadian rhythms are. But how can you take care of that if you're working through the night one week and then getting up at 2am the next week.
OK, so it's not ideal, I realise, but my husband fixes this as best as he can with naps. Just before he starts to get ready for work in the late afternoon, he'll head upstairs for a short sleep, asking me to wake him up after half an hour or so. This seems to give him an energy boost and he always says he feels better for it, even if he didn't sleep very long. Then he gets up, gets ready, has a cup of tea and heads off out the door.
And when he gets in at around 4am, he might check his phone for a few minutes or read, which he does wearing my tinted blue-light blocking glasses, which I leave by the side of his bed when I go to sleep. Because I'm nice like that.
And even though he sometimes works some crazy, unsociable hours, he never seems to struggle with sleep. He used to rely on coffee to wake him up (which isn't AIP, anyway). Now, he just takes an opportunity to put his head down whenever he can and have a mini snooze, even on his lunch break if he needs it. But he usually doesn't.
So what about food?
If you've ever had disrupted sleep, you've probably felt the cravings kicking in the next day. Sugar, fast food, carbs... science tells us that our cravings are more likely to be unhealthy if we've not had enough sleep the night before.
And think about the types of foods you can buy in the middle of the night. Kebabs, burger vans, fish and chips, fries... all this fried street food might be generally welcome at 2am to curb hunger after a night of partying, but not if you're on a healing diet and have to be careful what you eat.
You might find the odd 24-hour supermarket or corner shop open, and you can pick up ready-to-eat roasted chicken legs, ham slices and salads. But the chicken often has sugary BBQ coatings on, or grains or nightshades in the salads. So, unless you have an understanding person at the staff canteen that can cater for you, (he doesn't have a canteen) the best bet is to take your own food to work with you.
Canned sardines, vegetable sticks, a handful of bagged salad with leftover cold meatballs or cold, roasted meats alongside, tuna salad, home-made pâté, or a flask of leftover soup defrosted from the freezer. All these foods are quick to prepare, nutrient dense and won't leave you feeling tired and craving sugar later on in the night. My husband often tells me that he eats alongside his workmates who head to the local burger place, kebab van or chip shop. And he's sitting there, stabbing a fork into a pile of leftover re-heated veggies and meatballs.
So there you have it. I think it is possible to look after your body - and your sleep - even if you're working late shifts. Sleep when you're tired - and when you can. Eat nourishing food that you pack yourself, try and stay away from bright lights when you get home and don't be tempted by the all-night burger and chips van.
Are you paleo and work shifts? How do you manage it? Let me know in the comments below...
Do check out The Paleo Mom's new Go To Bed ebook and program packed full of tips to help you get a better night's sleep - a new program starts on the first Sunday of each month.