Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Working Nights?

I recently started a job which requires working nights. My co-worker practically inhales canned energy drinks to get through the shift. Are there any healthy alternatives or recipes for natural energy drinks?

Answer (Published 5/8/2007)

Working nights can be difficult and unhealthy. People who work nights or do shift work often experience symptoms much like those of jet lag. Because their work schedules are at odds with natural sleep-regulating cues, they may become very drowsy at work and then suffer from insomnia when they finally get to bed. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) reports that night workers typically get less sleep than day time workers and that their sleep is less restful. Over time, this takes a toll. The NSF reports that lack of sleep is associated with irritability, impatience, anxiety, depression, and that night workers are more likely than day workers to suffer from heartburn, indigestion and other stomach problems, menstrual irregularities, colds, flu, weight gain, heart problems, and high blood pressure. They're also at higher risk of workplace accidents and auto accidents driving back and forth to work.

Related Weil Products
Weil Vitamin Advisor Sleep Assessment - Restful, restorative sleep is fundamental to health and happiness. Learn how to address your unique sleep needs - take the Weil Vitamin Advisor Sleep Assessment and get your complimentary recommendation today.

I'm skeptical of claims that energy drinks can improve concentration. They're loaded with caffeine and sugar - so much caffeine, in fact, that a Northwestern University study documented a surge in caffeine overdoses reported to a Chicago poison control center. In some cases, the overdoses required visits to hospital emergency rooms.

Unfortunately, you can't be sure how much caffeine you're getting from energy drinks. Some contain multiple sources; caffeine itself as well as guaraná, a small red fruit from a Brazilian shrub that has a high caffeine content. Guaraná may be listed on the label, but its caffeine content isn't. A study at the University of Florida found that some energy drinks contain two to four times the amount of caffeine as a standard can of Coke, even though they're not as large.

You're most likely to feel alert and awake during your night shift when you're getting adequate rest and sleep. The NSF suggests that night workers wear wraparound dark glasses on the way home from work to keep morning sunlight from activating the internal "daytime" clock. Some other tips from the NSF:

  • Go to sleep as soon as possible after work and maintain the same sleep schedule daily, even on your days off.
  • Make sure your bedroom is cool and dark (wear eye shades and ear plugs, if necessary, or invest in light blocking and sound absorbing curtains).
  • Avoid caffeine for at least five hours before bedtime.
  • Exercise after you sleep (if you exercise at work, do so at least three hours before you plan to go to bed).
  • Don't leave the most tedious or boring tasks until the end of your shift when you're most likely to feel drowsy (night workers hit their low point around 4 a.m.).
  • Take short breaks during your shift and try to exercise during your regular breaks (take a walk, shoot hoops, climb stairs).

While at work, skip the energy drinks and stick to green or white tea. Try relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, meditation or yoga when you have trouble falling asleep after work. And if you can't adjust to night-work, consider looking for a day job.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here