14 Foods You Should Absolutely Be Eating After A Night Shift

Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning we receive a commission if you decide to make a purchase through our links, but this is at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure and privacy statement for more info.

Do you find yourself repetitively opening and closing the fridge once you get home from a night shift, hoping something delicious will suddenly jump out? Below we show you the foods which will keep your belly satisfied, will prevent unnecessary weight gain and won’t disrupt your sleep.

Nobody likes to wake up feeling hungry, do they? Especially night shift workers who have struggled to fall asleep in the first place! If we are smart about our food choices when working nights, we can not only help ourselves in regards to weight gain but we can also be one step closer to enjoying the kind of restless sleep we have been dreaming.

This post explores these foods and why choosing the right breakfast is so important.

If you find you’re not hungry after a night shift, jump to item number 11 for some perfect post night shift beverages.

  • Oats
  • Sprouted Bread
  • Apples
  • Banana
  • Kiwi Fruit
  • Barley
  • Walnuts
  • Whole-wheat Sandwich
  • Fatty Fish
  • Eggs
  • Chamomile Tea
  • Tart Cherry Juice
  • Warmed Milk
  • Green Smoothie

1. Oats

Recipe suggestion: Warmed oats with blueberries and a dollop of Greek yogurt on top

Oats are packed with complex carbs, fiber and protein which slowly deliver goodness over a few hours. Plus, oats can also help lower our risk of heart disease. 

The blueberries actively help fat from forming (and a great brain food!) and the Greek yogurt is jam-packed with protein and calcium, has precious probiotics and is excellent for the gut. Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and almonds is also a great meal choice. 

Almonds (which can be cut and sprinkled on top) are not only high in nutrients but they also provide a great source of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin.

“…eating almonds regularly has been associated with lower risks of a few chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease”. 


2. Sprouted Bread

The first time I had this I thought they messed up a brown bread, sourdough type recipe. However, I later found out they are totally different things!

As the name suggests this is whole-grain bread which has been given time to “sprout” or germinate.

This bread is “high in certain nutrients, including protein, fiber, B vitamins and vitamin C (2).” Chia Seed Jam, Almond Butter and Berries make a great toast topper – see the recipe here.

3. Apples

Don’t feel like a big, hot meal? Eat an apple.

Some state eating an apple before bed is not a good idea due to its ability to produce gas, making you severely uncomfortable when trying to sleep.

However, there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that eating an apple can actually help you sleep via the high amount of vitamin C, vitamin B6 and potassium.

Personally, I won’t normally go for an apple by itself as it causes bloating for me before bed but when I cut it up on warmed oats with a banana I don’t feel the effects as much.

Good to know:
Once you get home, eat first, then shower and prepare for bed. This can decrease the chance of reflux when eating too close before bedtime

4. Banana

Recipe suggestion: Whole-grain toast, banana, peanut butter, cacao bits, chopped pistachios and pomegranate seeds

As delicious as this sounds, you probably can’t be bothered, right? I got exhausted just reading the recipe suggestion.

What I simply do, is toast some whole-grain bread (generally one slice is enough), spread some crunchy, nut butter or natural peanut butter like this delicious one from the Peanut Butter & Co. Smooth Operator Peanut ButterOpens in a new tab. on Amazon. Then cut up a banana, drizzle honey or sprinkle some cinnamon on top. Delicious.

While bananas are thought to give athletes an energy booster, they also contain particular proteins and magnesium which can help give you a great days sleep.

Talking about a great days sleep, this video we published on our YouTube Video will help you get more!

5. Kiwi Fruit

I had NO IDEA kiwis were good before bed until very recently and boy, I wish I knew this sooner!

The pro’s in the sleep labs think that kiwi’s help us sleep due to their content of serotonin, a brain chemical that helps regulate your sleep cycle. And don’t fear the fury skin either – this is eatable and full of nutrients!

The other great thing about Kiwi fruit is they are low in calories. According to Healthline, “one medium kiwi contains only 50 calories and a significant amount of nutrients, including 117% of your daily needs for vitamin C and 38% for vitamin K”. (source)

Kiwi fruit | What Should I Eat After Working Night Shift?
Who knew? Kiwi fruits can help induce sleep!

6. Barley

Recipe suggestion: Cinnamon Apple Breakfast Barley

Why not swap out the oats for barley?

Although not overly common in our pantry, barley is packed with fiber which helps gut bacteria and also great for lowering cholesterol and encouraging weight loss. 

This research article also highlights barley can improve our sleep quality which is exactly what we want after a night shift.  

Foods rich in magnesium (dark chocolate, avocado, spinach, tofu and bananas… etc) are known to enhance sleep by helping you fall asleep faster or stay asleep longer.

7. Walnuts

Chomping on a few walnuts after working a night shift is in no way enticing to me, but if you throw in half a handful of chopped walnuts to my oats I’m all for it. 

Walnuts are one of the BEST foods you can eat to induce that famous sleep hormone melatonin I keep mentioning. They are also linked to reducing high cholesterol and boosting your heart health.

Try mixing cut-up almonds and walnuts together sprinkled on top of your oats to keep your “breakfast” interesting.

Chamomile tea with magazin | What Should I Eat After Working Night Shift?

8. Whole-wheat Sandwich

Recipe Suggestion: Turkey sandwich with curly kale, avocado and cottage cheese.

All these ingredients have been studied to help promote sleep – something we are normally desperate for!

According to The National Sleep Foundation, foods that are high in lean protein like cottage cheese are packed with the amino acid tryptophan, which may increase serotonin levels. “Serotonin is a brain chemical and low levels of it can contribute to insomnia”. (source)

9. Fatty Fish

Who doesn’t like some salmon at breakfast time? 

Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, trout and mackerel are incredibly healthy and can even help induce sleep. Researchers think it has something to do with the high levels of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids which are thought to reduce inflammation.

How does rice and fish sound for breakfast?
Research has suggested that eating white rice and an hour before bed was linked to better sleep and longer sleep duration (source). This maybe the only time we recommend white rice instead of brown rice…

salmon on crackers | What Should I Eat After Working Night Shift?

10. Eggs

Scrambled eggs anyone? How about hard-boiled eggs on top of some warm whole-grain toast?

Eggs are extremely versatile and easy to prepare to make them the perfect snack after a 3rd shift. They are low in calories too!

According to research, In animal foods, melatonin concentrations were found higher in eggs and fish than those in meat.

In order to cater for the night shift workers who don’t feel like a big meal, I’ve included a handful of drinks that should help put you into a relaxed state ready for a great day’s sleep.

11. Chamomile Tea

I know this is not specifically a food but I needed to add it in any way as some might not be hungry for a full meal.

…chamomile is commonly regarded as a mild tranquilizer or sleep inducer. (source)

This could be thanks to the antioxidant effect called apigenin found in chamomile tea and joins to specific receptors in your brain that may decrease anxiety and initiate sleep (source).

While we chat about herbal teas, peppermint tea and also passionflower tea (yeah, it’s a thing), all are incredibly powerful to calm the body and help induce sleep.

“The calming properties of passionflower tea may promote sleepiness, so it may be beneficial to drink it before going to bed”. (source)

I recently found a tea called “Sleepytime” (see on Amazon #ad) which I have shown below. It has a combination of: Chamomile, spearmint, lemongrass and a few other fruit leaves which I have come to love before bed.

I bought a bulk pack from Amazon because I love it so much but try a single pack and see if it’s right for you.

See it on Amazon here

12. Tart Cherry Juice

I can’t personally say I have tried this option but the research behind it seems impressive. (source)

Tart cherries have a high dietary melatonin concentration and have also shown to have anti-inflammatory effects “that may be beneficial in improving sleep quality”(3).

However, just be very careful on the brand you choose as the sugar content can be very high, causing your blood sugar to go through the roof before bed – which is not what we want.

If this a problem, enjoy a handful of fresh cherries instead and a few almonds for a great low carb, filling snack. (source)

Cherry tart juice

13. Warmed Milk

It is phenomenal the effect that warmed milk has on me!

But why is this? Milk (and also turkey) contain an amino acid, a type of protein called tryptophan which helps the body produce our sleep hormones and in turn, helps us sleep.

There is contradicting evidence to suggest however, that the volumes of these proteins don’t actually impact our sleep hormones enough to help us sleep better.

What is now being concluded is drinking milk can help us sleep but for a totally different reason. It brings back amazing, calming, childhood memories of being fed milk as a kid. Mind over matter sometimes right?

14. Green Smoothie

If you would prefer to drink something after a night shift because you just can be bothered to even chew, I’ve got you covered.

A green smoothie packed specifically with spinach, nuts and seeds is rich in magnesium which relaxes your muscles and in turn, puts your body in a sleepy state. 

By the way, it’s much better if you make these smoothies yourself over stopping off on the way home to pick one up. Despite the marketing and what the pretty “natural” store looks like, sugary syrups and juices are often added leading to that unwanted spike of alertness before bed. 

Success Tip…
While we recommend SuperGreen TONIK green juice for all night shift workers, don’t have it before bed. You’ll be up needing to visit the bathroom in no time. Drink it within about 5-6 hours of your shift remaining instead of waiting till you get home. (see our SuperGreen TONIK review here and receive a 10% discount off your purchase).

Foods to Avoid After Night Shift

You should know the research in this area is pretty limited and there is not much for us to go by. But after doing some extensive personal research and from my own experience, this is what I came up with.

You will have your own experiences with foods and drinks which simply work you but may not work for me. Keep trying. You will find the perfect meal plan after night shift which promotes a long, restful sleep.

“Bad Carbs” 

Pizza, french fries and burgers, for example, make this list. 

I know the word “carbs” makes people feel like they are doing something wrong when they eat them, but the truth is, consuming them in moderation is okay – but not before bed.

These foods are hard for your body to process, particularly when the sun is still down, as your digestive system works with your body clock. So sticking to foods that don’t elevate your blood sugar levels too much and can be easily digested is key.


I had no idea how bad these guys are for you. The media really skewed my perception of this seemingly harmless breakfast “snack.” They have 250 to 300 calories and a whopping 50 grams of carbs per begals.

Though there are some brands which do cater for “healthier options” there are a lot who use clever packaging to trick us into thinking we are making a healthy choice.

If you want bread, stick to the whole-grain type. If this type of bread is new to you, make the topping exciting, like avocado, hummus and an egg and you’ll soon forget all about it.

Fruit Juice

You may be feeling super dehydrated after working a night shift and would like nothing more than a big gulp of some OJ, but it’s just no good. Well, most of them anyway.

Before you unscrew the lid, check out the label in the “added sugars” section and see what you discover. If this number is over about 8g, put it back or mix it with a lot of water and drink it over a few days.


I stay away from tomatoes just before bed, particularly after working nights because of the reflux. 

If you don’t have an issue, carry on, but if you’re like me, save them for dinner before you leave for your next shift.

Alcohol, Caffeine and Energy Drinks

We have talked about this many times before, but these items, particularly alcohol, may make you feel sleepy in the beginning but you’ll be up in no time needing to use the bathroom. See what else alcohol is doing for night shift workers before bed here.

Some night shift workers may use these drinks as a way of getting home safely after a night shift. Something I have tried many times before! But the issue is, caffeine can stay in our system for up to 12 hours making sleep almost impossible when we get home.

Instead, try drinking iced cold water in your tumbler ( we use the BEAST – see our review here) and sip this all the way home. If you want more helpful tips on getting home safely after night shift – see this post here.

Whilst on the topic of drinks and beverages for night shift workers, we wrote a post titled What Should I Drink on Night Shift? 10 Energy Boosting Beverages. Here you’ll find some drink solutions you’ve never even considered!

If you’re wondering about caffeine, this post will give you some great insights!

[VIDEO] – If you’ve got this far I’m guessing you’d also be interested in the foods to stay away from when working overnight? These are my “red flag foods” which may cause nausea, bloating and utter discomfort.

What If I Am Not Hungry After Working a Night Shift?

I hear this a lot. What if I am just not hungry?

I recommend, and so too do the sleep and shift work experts, trying to eat something very small anyway.

The risk here is if you just go to sleep, there is a chance you could wake up only a few hours later with uncomfortable hunger pains in your belly. 

And this will disrupt everything, making falling back to sleep a tough task. You now not only have the light which is waking up your sleep hormones like Melatonin, but your body starts to naturally heat as it thinks you are ready to start a new day… when in fact you just want a quick snack and to sleep again. 

In my opinion, save yourself the drama. Eating even half a piece of whole-grain toast and a herbal tea could do the trick. Nothing crazy.

Bowel of breakfast with avocado, juice and bread | What Should I Eat After Working Night Shift?
Looks like an amazing post night shift meal to me!

In summary, there are endless options out there when it comes to foods that can put you in a state to sleep, even after a long night shift.

Don’t skip this meal to avoid waking with hunger pains, as sleep disruption can also lead to weight gain and plenty more health concerns as we explain here. Nobody wants any of it!

Thanks for reading our post about what to eat after working night shift. What do you eat after a night shift? Let us know in the comments below.


Emma signature | theothershift.com

Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning we receive a commission if you decide to make a purchase through our links, but this is at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure and privacy statement for more info.

Emma @ The Other Shift

Hey there! I'm Emma Smith a passionate, Registered Nurse from Australia. Together with my husband Daniel, we run The Other Shift. Our sole aim is to help shift workers and those on unusual schedules find balance between work and life. I understand the challenges of fitting in exercise, maintaining relationships and getting enough quality sleep, but I'm excited to show you that it’s possible to do shift work and still thrive. Read more about us and our story here.

One thought on “14 Foods You Should Absolutely Be Eating After A Night Shift

  1. Usually yogurt with berries. But with winter coming, I’m thinking of switching to oatmeal.

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