Shift work puts a huge strain on the mind and body. It’s well known that shift workers suffer higher rates if heart disease, diabetes and stress related illnesses than other types of workers.
Although we can’t get rid of shift work – the global number of shift workers is increasing every year – there are ways to help manage the shift work life. New apps, gadgets and other tech that help us to stay healthy in mind and body are cropping up all the time, and plenty of them are very useful for shift workers.
4 Priorities for a Healthy Work/Life Balance
Occupational psychologists identify four priorities that help us workers to stay healthy:
- Regular sleeping pattern
- Healthy eating
- Maintaining social and family life balance with work
The very nature of shift working makes staying on top of these priorities very difficult. But help is at hand!
We’ve searched the app and tech world – which we know quite a bit about – to find some of the most helpful, fun apps and tools that can keep shift workers stay in control of each of these four priorities.
1. Keeping a Regular Sleeping Pattern
All shift workers struggle with getting into a regular sleeping pattern. Our Circadian Rhythm is badly affected when we have work night shifts or when we have any change to our normal sleeping routine. Whilst some people seem to be able to manage well on little sleep and seem to be able to cope with night shifts, many shift workers struggle. And there is considerable evidence that long term nightshift working and regular changes to our circadian rhythm can be highly detrimental to health.
There are several sleep apps and gadgets that have hit the market in the last few years with the goal of helping you to fall asleep, stay asleep and monitor your sleep.
One of the biggest problems shift workers face is switching off after a hard shift, especially if they are trying to sleep in the middle of the day. Relax Melodies allows you to combine sounds and melodies with guided meditation and brainwave beats to help you unwind and ease into sleep.
The combinations are vast, so you will never get bored with the same music.
Available: Android ; iOS ; Free
If you like to fall asleep to the sounds of ocean waves or other soothing sounds, White Noise may be a sleep app to try.
The app comes loaded with several looped sounds, such as a burning campfire, a boat swaying and thunder. You can also set a gentle alarm to wake you up, such as a guitar strum, chime or violin.
Available: Android ; iOS ; Free
Sleep Cycle is a free app that’s designed to run on your phone under your pillow whilst you sleep, and can detect snoring. It uses either your phone’s microphone or its accelerometer to track your movements, and will then analyse the data to report on your night’s sleep – including whether you were snoring!
It will also wake you gently when it detects your light sleep phase close to your alarm time and has a choice of two snooze modes.
Available: Android and iOS ; Free.
Sunrise Clock Alarms
These light therapy devices help you to sleep by creating artificial sunrise and sunsets that wake up users naturally and promote the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
They range in price – some are very cheap such as the Thinp Wake Up Light Digital Alarm Clock with Sunrise & Sunset Simulation available on Amazon for just £10.99.
Through to the all singing-all-dancing Beurer WL 90 4-in-1 Wake Up Light.
We love this product, as you can manage your alarm settings using the handy Beurer LightUp app, which is available to both Apple and Android users. However, it’s not cheap, weighing in at a hefty £130 from John Lewis.
2. Eating Healthily
Eating well, when you are time starved and exhausted from lack of sleep, is no mean feat. Working shifts, it’s far too tempting to pig out on life-sustaining cake or doughnuts at 3am, rather than a limp, lifeless salad.
But research has shown that shift workers who eat better live longer, and that long term shift working is linked to all kinds of dietary issues, such as serious weight gain, diabetes, high cholesterol etc.
Luckily there’s plenty of tech options to help you beat the high-fat diet. We’ve avoided any apps that already assume that you are overweight – no one needs to hear that from their phone – but we’ve listed a few that caught our eye on the app stores. These apps are designed to assist you in your strive for eating healthily by monitoring your intake and finding excellent, healthy recipes to excite and stimulate your shift working taste buds.
MyFitnessPal offers a huge food database, on your app, listing over 5 million different foods, as well as a very helpful and informative website to back them up. Using an effective calorie counter, it can take you less than 5 minutes a day to track your diet and exercise, meaning it’s a quick habit to get into.
Working in conjunction with over 50 devices and apps including Apple Health, Fitbit and Garmin devices, it’ll help you keep on top of how well you’re doing.
Available: Android, iOS ; Free
Although we aren’t too sure about the overt stereotyping in the name Fitmencook, the one thing that all shift workers have in common is that they usually have minimal spare time. Despite its name, this app is aimed at anyone, men or women, who isn’t used to cooking for themselves.
It contains lots of useful information for eating healthily on shoestring budget, with no real skills.
Available: iOS, Android; £2.49, pro £0.79 monthly, £4.49 annually
Change4Life Food Scanner
We love the name of this app and its sentiment. Yes! Diets do suck and no one likes them!
But this app doesn’t go for wholesale changes to your eating habits, like many of the diet fads that plague us. Instead, it encourages small, simple changes to your diet by delivering reminders to help build healthy habits like drinking a glass of water each lunchtime, or eating a doctor-repelling apple a day.
Available: iOS ; Android ; Free
3. Regular Exercise
Finding time to exercise is not easy for the average shift worker. While some shift working jobs require long hours of physical activity, others can be very sedentary. Making sure you stay fit and active is a must, though, as heart disease and weight issues are notoriously high amongst shift workers.
Tracking your steps using apps and wearable devices has really taken off in the last few years. People are using Fitbit or their smartwatch and smart phones to try and keep an eye on the number of steps they take – with a daily target to help them stay in shape.
Just tracking how much you’ve walked isn’t always enough, though, which is why we liked these apps for helping you take the next step on your fitness drive.
This simple-to-use app will let you choose from 27 different yoga sessions. Also available as a desktop app, and with a handy website with useful information, the beauty of Pocket Yoga is that you can choose short or long exercises with a range of difficulties, depending on your experience.
There’s over 200 yoga poses with voice and visual guides to show you how to do them, so you’ll be a yoga master in no time.
Available: Android ; iOS ; Desktop App ; One-off payment of £2.99, £4.99 for Desktop App
In 2015 researchers from the University of Florida found that Sworkit was the closest aligned to the American College of Sports Medicine’s training guidelines compared to the other apps tested.
This means that the advice you’re getting is pretty good. What’s more, you can mix and match your own schedule of body weight workouts to find a routine you love.
Available: Android ; iOS ; Web App ; Free
Daily Butt Workout
Who doesn’t want a perky behind?
We had to add this, purely for comedy value. This app targets solely your bottom. You can choose a 5 or 10-minute workout that combines exercises like squats and donkey kicks and each move has a video to go with it and a description of how to do it. It might not be for everyone, but we enjoyed trying some of these out in the office!
Available: Android ; iOS ; Free, Pro-£1.59
Shift workers are notoriously time poor, so this app will give you a whole-body workout in (you guessed it) just seven minutes.
Workouts contain a mixture of strength and cardio to maximise the effect of those seven minutes.
Available: Android ; iOS ; Free, In-App-Purchases
4. Social and Family Life
Maintaining a healthy balance between work and home is difficult for all workers. For shift workers, it can be impossible at times without help.
Knowing which shifts you are on, and when, and then being able to plan time off, is a vital component to staying healthy in mind and body. Without a tool to help, many shift workers struggle to manage.
My Shift Planner
My Shift Planner is designed to make shift working easy. With colour-coded shifts on a clear, designed-for-purpose calendar , My Shift Planner is easy to set up and keep updated. It’s fast and easy to add your shift pattern, and is fully customisable to suit any shift working environment.
With My Shift Planner you can see when you are next off, when’s your next full weekend free, keep track of your holidays, add your on-call, pay-days and training and quickly monitor overtime and hours worked using the handy working time reports feature.
Quickly drop your on-call, pay days, training and overtime into the calendar. And, with the Live Sharing and multiple calendar options, you can even see your partner’s shift pattern so that you can plan your time off together accordingly.
Available: Android ; iOS ; Free, In-App-Purchases