Juggling a job and diabetes is already a balancing act, but throw in a shift work schedule and it can feel more like walking a tightrope. Routine is important for diabetes management, which requires the ability to monitor, test and respond to blood sugar fluctuations while keeping healthy lifestyle habits. And whether you’re burning the midnight oil or rising with the sun, unconventional work hours can wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels, meal times, sleep patterns and physical health.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 16% of US workers have non-standard schedules, including evening, night, and rotating shifts. With diabetes as one of the most common chronic conditions in the world, there’s guaranteed to be more than a few who are both. If that’s you (or a loved one), read on as we shed some light on how shift work impacts diabetes and what you can do to keep your glucose levels in check, even when your schedule is all over the map.

The Impact of Shift Work on Diabetes

The negative health risks of shift work and night work are well-documented, with studies revealing dramatic impacts to everything from sleep and nutrition to the risk of chronic diseases and mental health issues. A 2017 study by the Endocrine Society found that diabetes is no exception – controlling blood glucose levels is harder for shift workers, and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes is higher.

While the specifics are still under debate, here’s what we do know about shift work and diabetes management.

Eating Habits

Shift work often leads to irregular meal times, making it tricky to keep blood sugar levels stable. Skipping meals or eating at odd hours can lead to unexpected spikes or drops in blood sugar. Late-night shifts can also increase cravings for unhealthy snacks, which are harder to resist when you’re tired.

Shift workers often have limited access to healthy food choices, leading to reliance on vending machines or fast food chains. Finding time to buy and prepare balanced meals can be a challenge in itself, especially if you work rotating or irregular hours.

Disrupted Testing Routines

Maintaining a consistent testing routine is crucial for diabetes management, but shift work can throw this off balance. Irregular work hours can make it difficult to test your blood sugar at the same times each day, particularly if you work in a hands-on trade. The hustle and bustle of shift work can also make it harder to notice subtle changes in blood sugar levels and respond accordingly.

Sleep Patterns and Circadian Rhythm

Quality sleep is essential for everyone, but especially for those managing diabetes. Shift work disrupts your circadian rhythm, a kind of biological 24-hour clock that uses environmental cues to regulate everything from sleep-wake cycles and body temperature to hormones, metabolism, and cognitive function. Shift workers are known to experience circadian misalignment, and working against your natural body clock can cause dramatic hormonal imbalances that affect glucose levels.

Tips for Managing Diabetes as a Shift Worker

  1. Plan Your Meals Ahead
  • Spend time on your days off preparing healthy meals that you can easily take to work. This helps avoid the temptation of vending machines and fast food.
  • Focus on a diet rich in vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains to help stabilize your blood sugar levels throughout your shift.
  1. Stick to a Routine
  • Try to eat at regular intervals, even if your work schedule is irregular. Set alarms if necessary to remind yourself to eat.
  • Maintain a consistent testing schedule as much as possible. Using a continuous glucose monitor can help you keep track of your levels without the hassle of frequent manual testing.
  1. Prioritize Sleep
  • Create a dark, quiet, and cool sleeping environment. Use blackout curtains and earplugs if necessary to ensure quality sleep.
  • Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on your days off, to help regulate your body’s internal clock.
  1. Stay Hydrated and Active
  • Drink plenty of water throughout your shift to stay hydrated and help regulate blood sugar levels.
  • Incorporate short bursts of physical activity into your day. Even a brief walk during breaks can help manage glucose levels.
  1. Utilize Our Diabetes Supply Programs
  • Testing Supplies: Avoid the stress of shopping for your testing supplies by using our diabetes testing supply program. We deliver glucose monitors, testing supplies and other essential items right to your door, ensuring you have everything you need on hand no matter the hour.
  • Continuous Glucose Monitors: These devices handle the hourly testing for you and provide real-time blood sugar readings and alerts, so you can focus on your work without constant interruptions.

Managing diabetes as a shift worker comes with its own unique set of challenges, but with careful planning and the right tools, it’s entirely manageable. America’s Best Care Plus is here to support you with our convenient supply programs and continuous glucose monitors, helping you maintain control over your diabetes no matter how unpredictable your work schedule might be. Take the first step towards smoother diabetes management today and explore our range of supplies and services designed to fit your lifestyle.