Is a midnight snack the key to staying alert?
A recent study by researchers at the University of South Australia looked at how food intake can affect those working the nightshift. By testing the impact of a snack, a meal, or no food at all, the study found that a simple snack was the best choice for maximising alertness and productivity.
The study looked at a small group of 44 nightshift workers over a week, dividing them into groups to test three different midnight eating patterns: a meal, a snack, and no food. They were then asked to report on their levels of hunger, gut reaction and sleepiness.
It found that all participants reported increased sleepiness and fatigue, but those who had a snack reduced the impact of those feelings. Additionally, the snack group did not experience the same uncomfortable gut reactions as the group that ate a meal.
In today’s 24/7 economy, working the nightshift is increasingly common, with industries like health care, aviation, transport and mining needing employees to work around the clock. Of Australia’s 1.4 million shift workers, over 200,000 (15%) regularly work the nightshift. Upsetting the body’s circadian rhythm in this way can be a real health and safety risk, which is why robust fatigue management needs to be in place for employee wellbeing as well as productivity.
Lead researcher Charlotte Gupta said that the next step is research into how different types of snacks could affect night shift workers. She says that the findings have to potential to affect thousands of shift workers; “the findings will inform the most strategic eating patterns on-shift and can hopefully contribute to more alert and better performing workers.”
The study can be accessed here.