Let’s first discuss the sleep-wake cycle before we move into basic sleep health. Sleep can be broken down into stages and we cycle through each stage when we go to bed.  

Stage 1 is light sleep; this is when we can be easily woken, often referred to as the dozing off stage. Stage 2 is where our bodily functions begin to slow down, like our heart rate, breathing, and brain waves. In stage 2 our core body temperature also drops. The 3rd and 4th stages are extensions of each other. 

Stage 3 & 4 is the NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) stage where the body enters deep sleep and the muscles and tissue begin to recover and repair. The immune system is activated and on a cellular level begins to modulate immune defence against infecting pathogens. The NREM sleep stage is fundamental for brain growth and development, cognitive function, memory consolidation, creativity, problem solving and emotional regulation.

Stage 5 is REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement) this is further deepening of the subconscious where we enter dream states. The brain is very active and continues processing information from stages 3 & 4 but in stage 5 the body is immobilized and the eyes rapidly move. 

Part of the sleep-wake cycle is circadian rhythm function. Circadian rhythm is a biological clock-like process controlled in the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus part of the brain that sends messages to our body systems, telling us when it is time to sleep and time to wake up. Circadian rhythm changes are governed by multiple factors such as darkness, brightness, environment, genetics, hormones, and medications. An example of this is when our body temperature drops in the evening bringing on a feeling of tiredness and raises again in the morning to promote wakefulness. 

So with the sleep cycle explained here’s a few basic dietary and lifestyle interventions you can make to help support the natural rhythm of your sleep-wake cycle.

  • Listen to your body – if you are dozing off in the lounge chair it’s past your bedtime. If you are regularly needing to take naps during the day then you more than likely are not getting enough NREM and REM sleep. If you are waking up just before your alarm in the morning then you know you have had the right sleep duration. By listening to your own body signals you can determine the natural rhythm of your sleep-wake cycle.
  • Avoid caffeine 6 hours before your bedtime – caffeine disrupts the time your circadian rhythm signals kick in and, like most stimulating drugs takes time to eliminate from the body. It can remain in the body from 3-5 hours after ingestion. You may find caffeine doesn’t effect your ability to get to sleep, but it can prevent the body from reaching the deep sleep stages
  • Avoid blue light from electronic devices and fluorescent lights – power down technology 1-2 hours before bed and opt for dim warm light from lamps. Signals from the optic nerve can dictate the timing of circadian rhythms. Blue light has been shown to stimulate wakefulness, while low warm light signals darkness and sleepiness. Exposure to electronic devices and blue light can interfere with the amount of time the body spends in NREM and REM sleep
  • Don’t be afraid to speak up if you’re having issues with your sleep – talk to someone about it, seek professional advice. Sleep health is important to so many modalities of allopathic and complementary medicine. Pain, anxiety, dental problems, respiratory conditions, poor nutrition, and work lifestyle can all be reasons behind a bad night’s sleep. There are so many solutions to a variety of sleep concerns whether it is tea, ear plugs, snoring aids, dental appliances, herbal tonics, nutritional supplements, or meditation, they are there for your use and I encourage you to speak up if you would like to know more.


Starting shift work and unsure about what to pack for lunch, when to eat and what to eat to stay awake? Well here is a quick guide to get you on the right track.


Eat your main meal before your shift, a smaller meal and snacks during shift, then a light meal or snack afterwards, preferably 2 hours before you go to bed. We don’t want you going to bed hungry but we also don’t want you going to bed on a full belly of food. The food we eat should be used to give us the energy and nutrients that we require a full meal before bed isn’t going to be used to give you energy, it will just be sitting sluggish in your digestive tract. When working, eat every 3-4 hours if you are hungry. Listen for your body’s hunger signs and be mindful that you are not just eating from boredom or to keep you awake. 


During your shift, include snacks that are high in protein like hummus with carrots, a handful of nuts and seeds, tuna with crackers, greek yoghurt with fruit. When having main meals, include lean protein (meat, fish, legumes), whole grain carbohydrates (sourdough, brown rice, wholemeal pasta or oats) and plenty of salad and vegetables. Fat is an important component of our meals for supporting different body functions, we just need to make sure it is in moderation and top quality. When having healthy fats in main meals make it quality sources like salmon, avocado, olive oil and olives.


Make sure you drink plenty of water throughout your shift, often we are not hungry or tired we are just dehydrated, so increasing your water intake will help you to manage fatigue. Tea and coffee are ok for the beginning of your shift. Aim for a maximum or 2 coffees a night and avoid all caffeine 6 hours before bed. Herbal teas like mint, lemon and ginger are excellent throughout your shift. Just steer clear of the vending machine all together. If you need a sweetened beverage try a kombucha, fruit smoothie or fruit infused water. Avoid alcohol after your shift if you need to wind down, choose a soda water, sparkling grape juice, or chamomile tea. 


On your days off try to be prepared with meals and snacks for the week. Make meals in bulk and store them in the fridge and freezer for the week. This could include: chicken fried brown rice, shepherd’s pie, rissoles, soup, vegetable curry, or oven baked vegetables. If you haven’t prepared meals in advance, instead of eating at fast food restaurants, try making a quick, simple meals from the supermarket with BBQ chicken, cheese, pre-packaged salads and bread roll or a can of tuna/salmon, a packet of microwave brown rice & quinoa and a can of beans or vegetable soup.


If you do end up eating out at a pub, fast food restaurant, or take away shop, try to choose meals containing lots of fresh salad and vegetables. Less fried foods, or bakery items. Choose the salad or vegetable option instead of a burger and chips. Remember that you don’t have to eat everything on your plate if you are full.


Include physical activity wherever you can walk up and down the stairs, take a stretch break in between shift change, go for a walk on your days off, go to the gym in the evening the night before you rostered on to do dog watch. Physical activity should be a daily routine whatever you can fit in whilst working long evenings is a bonus.

A basic beginning to the hard, challenging ongoing health condition that is work night shift and managing fatigue. Good dietary habits can set you up to succeed in maintaining a healthy weight, increasing energy levels and supporting overall health. If you have any current or ongoing health conditions get in contact for further strategies for achieving  nutritional balance.

For some go-to healthy meals download my recipe guide:

Five foods to help reduce bloating on night shift

Bloated? Tired? And still need to pack your “lunch” for night shift? There’s nothing like trying to be prepared when you don’t even feel like eating and haven’t had your pre-work coffee yet.

Bloating is one of the most common complaints noted by shift workers specifically those on a rotating roster. Not only are you working when your body knows it should be sleeping, but you are eating when your digestive system should be resting. Biological circadian rhythm dysfunction has been associated with gastrointestinal disturbances, like bloating, gas and abdominal pain.

So here is some go-to foods for you to have in the fridge or pantry to help reduce the bloat and grab quickly before starting that dreaded dog watch shift.

  • Peppermint Tea – Do your gut a favour and ditch the coffee for a peppermint tea. Peppermint is used in herbal medicine as a carminative; which helps to relieve gas, a spasmolytic; which help to calm smooth muscle spasms, and cholagogue; which helps to expel bile. All of these actions make it perfect for supporting the digestive system plus it’s so easy to find! Everywhere sells peppermint tea, or you can pick the peppermint straight from the garden and make a tea from the fresh herb. My favourite tea bags are Pukka Three Mint.
  • Smoothie – Another drink but trust me there is some foods on this list too. Smoothies are easy to digest, mostly because the manual process of chewing has already been completed for you by the blender. Your body doesn’t have break the wholefoods in the gastrointestinal tract. Plus you can pack a smoothie with all the major food groups protein, fat and high fibre carbohydrates. Add your daily servings of fruit and vegetables in one drink, that can be taken with you and consumed later on in the shift. 
  • Water kefir – this beverage is probiotic which means it contains a blend of beneficial bacteria and yeast. Some of the bacteria families found in this particular probiotic drink include Lactobacillus, Lactococcus, Streptococcus and Leuconostoc. These microorganisms strengthen the immune system in the gastrointestinal tract and can help reduce digestive upset. Water kefir is not as easy to come by as some of the other foods on this list, so look for it in your local health food shop or try making your own at home. My favourite brand of water kefir is Peace, Love, Vegetables Coconut Kefir. 
  • Soup – Yes even in summer. Soup is a great tool for night shift “lunches”. The already cooked meats and legumes make the protein easily digestible. Make sure that the soup contains lots of vegetables, so you’re not missing out on your high fibre carbohydrates. Its a quick grab and go meal, a wholefood canned soup from your pantry or the shops on the way to work. Alternatively if you are a master chef and have done your food prep for the week you can grab it quickly from the fridge on your way out the door. See my recipe here for Family Chicken, Veg & Oatmeal Soup.
  • Yoghurt – Another probiotic food but this one is a bit easier to find, and you can even add this to you smoothie or soup if you like. Avoid the flavoured ones, stick to a plain natural yoghurt like vaalia or greek yoghurt. The strains you will find in yoghurt are Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, which are not specific to bloating however they do have therapeutic properties for relieving diarrhea and supporting the balance of bacteria in the large intestine. 

Bonus; these foods are all budget friendly! 

Ok so your eating these five foods and still bloated what do you do now? Firstly go see your GP – we need to rule out any major gastrointestinal issues and they’re going to be the ones to diagnose these. 

Secondly food intolerances and enzyme activity need to be a consideration here. Book an appointment to discuss your options for dietary regimes, supplementation, or intolerance testing, to discuss which food/s may be the cause of bloating for you.