Quick Tips: Diabetes and Shift Work

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Quick Tips: Diabetes and Shift Work

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Managing diabetes is all about setting a healthy routine of medicine, eating, exercise, and sleep. But when you work night shifts or have changing work shifts, it can seem like there’s nothing at all routine about your life.

It’s definitely more of a chore to manage diabetes under such conditions, but it can be done. These tips may help.

Get organized

  • Talk to your doctor, diabetes nutritionist, or diabetes educator. He or she will help you make a plan for dealing with your shift work.
  • Have a backpack, briefcase, or large purse that always contains your at-work essentials, such as:
    • A blood sugar meter.
    • Planned snacks.
    • Emergency snacks.
    • Medicines.
    • A water bottle.
    • Lunch.
    • An ice pack, if you don't have access to a refrigerator.
  • Tell your employer that you have diabetes. Show him or her your plan. Ask for regular breaks, a place to store and take your insulin or other medicine, and a place to rest when you need it. The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) offers information to help you learn your rights on the job.

Manage your blood sugar

  • Test your blood sugar every couple of hours. Working night shifts or constantly changing shifts can affect your blood sugar in ways that may surprise you.
  • Keep a detailed record of your blood sugar readings, medicine doses, exercise, and sleep. This will help you and your doctor see patterns and make plans to deal with them.
  • If you haven't already, consider updating your blood sugar meter. Newer ones do a lot of tracking for you, recording trends and keeping track of carbohydrate averages per meal.
  • If you take insulin, consider using an insulin pump.

Plan your meals

  • Try planning a week’s worth of your at-work lunches at a time, so you avoid the snack machine or the nearby fast food restaurant.
  • Are you often too tired to make dinner after work? Keep a supply of healthy, ready-to-eat snacks, such as:
    • Hard-boiled eggs.
    • Fruit.
    • Cheese sticks.
    • Crackers or pretzels.
    • Beef or turkey jerky.
    • Single servings of low-sugar, nonfat yogurt or cottage cheese, or a sugar-free gelatin dessert such as Jell-O.
  • Some jobs make it hard to take a snack break. Keep something in your pocket, like a small bag of dried fruit or unsalted nuts or a low-carbohydrate cereal bar.

Keep up your exercise

  • It may be harder to keep up your regular exercise routine at home when you work nights or your shift keeps changing. Find a way to make it part of your routine. Set some goals. Take the time to think about what is getting in the way of your success and what you can do to get around those barriers.
  • At work, take a walk during your breaks. If you work at a desk, do stretches in front of your computer.
  • Use your commute to do some extra walking. Park several blocks away, or get off the bus a few stops early.

Get enough sleep

  • Avoid caffeine drinks 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid heavy meals close to bedtime. But a light snack may help you sleep. Ask your doctor if you should snack before sleep.
  • Be aware of a problem called shift work sleep disorder. If you have trouble sleeping because of your work shift, talk to your doctor.
  • Measure your blood sugar before you go to sleep. This is especially important if your sleep time changes.

Other Places To Get Help

Organizations

Canadian Diabetes Association
National Life Building
1400-522 University Avenue
Toronto, ON  M5G 2R5
Phone: (416) 363-0177
1-800-BANTING (1-800-226-8464)
Fax: (416) 408-7117
Email: info@diabetes.ca
Web Address: http://www.diabetes.ca
 

The Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) is devoted to meeting the needs of people with diabetes in Canada. This organization provides general information about diabetes and its care. It organizes summer camps for young people with diabetes and conducts educational seminars to help people manage their diabetes. The CDA also sells a range of products, including cookbooks, in its stores.


Canadian Human Rights Commission
344 Slater Street, 8th Floor
Ottawa, ON  K1A 1E1
Phone: 1-888-214-1090
(613) 995-1151
Fax: (613) 996-9661
TDD: 1-888-643-3304
Web Address: www.chrc-ccdp.ca
 

The Canadian Human Rights Commission administers the Canadian Human Rights Act and is responsible for ensuring compliance with the Employment Equity Act. Both laws ensure that the principles of equal opportunity and non-discrimination are followed in all areas of federal jurisdiction.


Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Alan C. Dalkin, MD - Endocrinology
Specialist Medical Reviewer David C.W. Lau, MD, PhD, FRCPC - Endocrinology
Last Revised July 7, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.