7 Tips for Night Shift Weight Loss



If you work a graveyard shift—or any shift work, including rotating shifts—you may find that the schedule is wreaking havoc on your ability to stick to a healthy eating and exercise program. On top of that, the disruptions to your circadian rhythm can throw off your body’s hormonal balance, making you more likely to overeat high-calorie foods.Gaining weight is a serious side effect of taking shift work. Fortunately, by making some simple adjustments, you can start losing the extra pounds—or at the very least, maintain your current weight.


Why Shift Work Leads to Weight Gain


Shift work is tough on the body. Not getting consistent, uninterrupted sleep or enough sleep (7 to 9 hours per 24-hour period) throws your body’s neatly-calibrated system into disarray. Sleep deprivation increases fatty acids levels, raises your cortisol (the stress hormone associated with an increase in belly fat), raises your blood glucose levels, and promotes insulin resistance—making you twice as likely to develop Type II diabetes.

Not sleeping at night when your body is designed to sleep contradicts your body clock, too. The human body is meant to sleep during the night and be awake and alert during daylight hours. Throughout the day, appetite-regulating hormones work in concert with melatonin (the sleep hormone) to dictate when you should be hungry and when you might want to take a nap.

If you’re a shift worker—particularly, a night shift worker—you’re fighting your body’s natural signals. Instead of entering deep sleep at 2:00 A.M., for example, you’re three hours into your graveyard shift, reaching for a Diet Coke and a candy bar to help you stay awake.


Being awake when you should be asleep (and vice versa) confuses your body clock, including the hormones responsible for managing hunger. Shift workers tend to have lower-than-average levels of leptin, which suppresses hunger, and higher-than-average levels of ghrelin, which stimulates it. 

The net result: you get hungry but your “off switch” doesn’t work properly. You keep eating.

Unfortunately, you’re probably tired and sleep-deprived as well as famished—meaning you’re more likely to reach for fatty, sugary, high-calorie foods to give you energy. Researchers estimate that shift workers consume about 600 extra calories per day. Multiply this by seven days and you’re consuming 4200 extra calories per week.

How many calories does it take to gain one pound of fat? 3500 calories. 

If, like many shift workers, you’re not finding the time to exercise, you could be putting on more than a pound per week. Over the course of a year, that’s 50 pounds or more of weight gain, which is likely to make you obese. Obesity is about much more than vanity. Overweight shift workers are at an increased risk for developing high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, and many other serious conditions.

So if you work a graveyard shift, an early morning shift, or a rotating shift, what can you do to lose weight, manage your weight, and reduce your risk of obesity-related health problems? Here are our tips.

7 Tips for Night Shift Weight Loss 

Remember, the #1 reason you’re hungry and putting on weight is sleep deprivation. Many of the tips in this list focus on how shift workers can get better sleep.


These tips can help you to get more rest and to keep your body in balance. Remember: your job is important, but you’ll have nothing—work included—without your health.

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