How Can I Boost My Immune System When Working Night Shift?

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It’s a known fact that working overnights for long periods can have a negative effect on your immune system. Keeping a regular sleep schedule can help but it is a major necessity. There have been studies showing the negative impact of a lack of sleep and shift work so when working overnights or late nights is a necessity to paying the bills, how do you battle the compromise to your immune system? What are the repercussions of working overnights and shift work?

Night shift workers can boost their immune system by; finding a consistent sleep routine, consuming immune-boosting foods such as broccoli and citrus fruits, exercising regularly, being smart with stimulants, requesting block night shifts if possible and enjoying quiet time daily free from technology

First off, what are the signs and symptoms of a lower immune system? You need to pay close attention to how you feel and what your body is trying to tell you. If your immune system is weak, it can wreak havoc on your life. You could end up missing work, missing pay and getting sick way too often. It can also lead to conditions that will follow you for life, like breast cancer or Diabetes.

There are a few signs that you have a weakened immune system and there are things you can do, even working night shifts, to improve them.

Health Impacts of Night Shift Working

Before we jump into how we can sure up our immune system, we need to know what we’re working against.

Now be warned, the below list is a little frightening from a short and long-term health perspective. What I take away from this is we do need to do more to stay healthy than our 9-5 working friends, but that’s just how it is.

Dan and I are here to support you overcome as much of this stuff as we can.

  1. Lower metabolism. Working overnight messes up the production of hormones that help you retain a healthy weight and can cause you to gain excess weight – especially fat.
  2. Messes with natural internal clock. Our bodies have a sensitive internal clock that goes from sun up to sun down. Working irregular hours or overnights can keep the body from producing melatonin and other sleep hormones at the right time and can cause insomnia, among other problems like Shift Work Sleep Disorder.
  3. Higher rates of obesity and diabetes. Obesity comes with a lower metabolism and diabetes comes with obesity. With your body’s hormones thrown out of whack, you will be at higher risk of diabetes. (source)
  4. Higher risk of exhaustion.
  5. Higher risk of injury. Exhaustion (typically from lack of sleep) brings the inability to focus or think clearly and with those two issues, accidents happen more often. You’re more prone to messing up and lacking good judgement when you are too tired.
    • Driving home? This post will help you get home safely.
  6. Higher risk of infertility and pregnancy problems. This post we write titled, Does Shift Work Affect Fertility? What You Need to Know can shed some more light on this topic.
  7. Higher risk of heart attack, cancer and stroke (source)

As you can see, there are more risks involved with working overnights versus the standard day worker, but these jobs are important to a large number of industries. So if you find yourself in a night shift role and you’re not feeling 100%, listed below are signs that your immune system is weakening.

[VIDEO] – Before we jump to that, below is a video that focuses on “The One Thing Night Shift Workers Can Do Better.” If you like what you’re hearing consider subscribing to our channel so you never miss a new video.

Signs of a Weakened Immune System

A weakened immune system can wreak havoc on your entire body and cause you to lose pay, lose shifts and even potentially lose your job – something we don’t want here!

So what do we need to look out for? What are some of the signs?

  • You will find that you get sick easier. You feel like you have a cold you just can’t kick. Every time you start to get over it, you get sick again. That is a very strong sign that your immune system is down. You get sick fast and you always seem to be sick. A strong immune system fights off germs and people with strong immune systems don’t get sick easily.
  • You seem to keep fevers. Fevers are part of the defense against viruses that move into your body. If you feel like you always have a fever for no reason, it can be a sign of your immune system constantly fighting.
  • You have higher than average stress levels. There is almost nothing worse for your immune system than high stress and the hormone cortisol can make stress feel worse. Those levels can increase when you get less sleep.
  • You are always tired. Ohh yeah! Fatigue is one of the ways your body fights off being sick. If you find that you’re always wanting to sleep for no reason, it could be that your immune system is down and your body is trying to repair itself.            
    • Feeling fatigued? This post is packed with energy boosting tips just for shift workers.                                                                                                               

Related post: Night Shift and Feeling Sick. How to Fix It.

If you find that you have the above listed symptoms regularly, it’s time to start looking into making some serious life changes. Your overall health is what’s most important here.

Man tired at work | Adjusting to night shift

How Can I Boost my Immune System?

Now the easy fix is to adjust back to a regular day schedule, but as you’re here, it’s most likely not possible for you. So the next thing to do is change up your lifestyle. So what does that involve?

Monitor Your Diet

Healthy eating is a must. You need to make sure you’re able to keep your energy so eating a high fiber, high good carb and low bad carb (too much sugar can lead to weight gain, blood sugar regulation problems caused by the spikes in sugar that is produced breaking the food down) and high in healthy sugars like fruits. (source)

You especially need protein, since protein is one of the most essential nutrients in providing muscle, strength and energy.

If you’re looking for some post night shift breakfast idea, here’s a great post for you. But if you’re in the need for a few snacks, you’ll love this one.

Here is a list of immune-boosting foods from Healthline, to pack into your lunch box;

  • Bell peppers/capsicum
  • Citris fruits
  • Broccoli
  • Garlic
  • Ginger (great for nausea too)
  • Spinach
  • Yogurt
  • Almonds
  • Suflower seeds
  • Tumeric (watch is as this power can stain)
  • Green tea
  • Kiwi (this is also high in Melatonin and can help you sleep!)

Personally, sometimes eating healthy foods as a night shift worker can be tough (and time-consuming). To make it all much easier we drink SuperGreen TONIK. One spoonful of the powdered green juice and I’m feeling refreshed and energized, plus my skin is never clearer. Get yourself a tub or two here.

Exercise (Even When You Don’t Want To)

Exercise is another important way to keep your immune system up. Make sure you get a small workout in on a near-daily basis.

It could be as simple as doing some small stretches in the morning, parking further from where you need to go when shopping or entering work. Physical activity may help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways and keep your body filled with the good stuff it needs. (source)

Not sure when you exercise on night shift, this video below will hopefully help.

Find A Consistant Sleep Routine

Trying to maintain a semi-normal sleep schedule is vital to all people. Since you work overnights, you will be trying to sleep while everyone else is awake. The best ways to try to get adequate sleep during the day is as follows;

  • Blackout curtains – stop all rays of sunshine seeping in to your sleeping space. Great for those who are light sleepers and struggle when a room is not pitch black. These are hugely popular on Amazon.
  • Keep your temperature cool. It’s best to keep the temperature of your sleeping area below 68 degrees. You won’t get woken up in the middle of your sleep sweating and it will help you remain sleeping longer.
  • Do your best to keep a regular sleep schedule, even if it is what most would consider weird times of the day. You can reset your circadian rhythm successfully when sleeping consistently, a big contributor to boosting your immunity.
  • If you can’t sleep, a white noise machine helps to drown out external noise. We love this white noise machine.
  • If the blackout curtains or white noise machine are a little pricey for you, a sleep mask and ear plugs could be a cheaper alternative. These are our favorite two at the moment. (I’m wearing Manta Sleep and Dan is rocking the purple Swanwick eye mask)


Consider using melatonin while you get used to the changing sleep schedule. If you’ve never taken Melatonin before, check out this video we published on Youtube first to prevent some of the side effects I got.

Be Strategic With Caffeine and Alcohol Consumption

Avoid caffeine or alcohol too close to the time you go to bed. Alcohol may make you get to bed quicker, but the sleep you get from alcohol is of poor quality. (source)

If you do love a beer or any alcoholic beverage for that matter after night shift, check out this post.

Enjoy Quite Time

Make the last 1-2 hours before bedtime an electronic free time. Read a book, write in a journal, or drink some herbal tea to help relax before you go to bed. We are obsessed with Pique Tea! If you’re yet to try it, click here. You won’t be disappointed. Use THEOTHERSHIFT at the checkout for a discount too.

Take TVs out of the bedroom and do not charge your phone by your bed. Just out of arms reach works for as I can still use the alarm


The nurse in me has to mention this. Quit smoking – if you cannot quit (or don’t want to quit), stop smoking around 2 hours prior to going to bed. Nicotine is a stimulant, like caffeine, and can keep you up longer when you are trying to sleep. (source)

Other ways to boost your immune system is to focus on certain vitamins and consider taking supplements. You want plenty of C, which is the vitamin in oranges, orange juice and some other fruits. It helps with keeping your immune system at a higher level. (source)

If you’re interested in the vitamins we should be taking as shift workers, this post will be pretty insightful.

Communicate Honestly

Make sure other people in your house are on board with what you’re working on doing. If you have help with a spouse, partner or roommate taking care of the daytime running of the house while carefully allowing you to sleep, things will go smoother.

Here are some tips for living with a shift worker you’ll want to pass on.

Live in a share house? Talk it out and understand your housemates schedule so you can all have a good night/days sleep

Regular Check Ups

Make regular appointments with your doctor. When you are placing your body under duress it’s not normally used too, something could be happening below the surface that you can not easily identify. A consistent checkup with the doctor ensure nothing is amiss for too long and can be addressed with the right remedies.

Clever Rostering

If you have the option of selecting your shifts, have you considered adopting nights slowly? Not everyone has that option, but if you can work a night shift for a week, see how your body adjusts, and address the triggers that caused you concern.

As you get more comfortable with the schedule and improve your weaknesses, move up to working more than one week until you’re used to sleeping on your new schedule and the rigours that come with night work.

Also try to avoid a rotating roster eg. only work overnight shifts or day shifts. You don’t want to work a few overnights a month and the rest days and evenings. Yes, we know the extra pay that comes with overtime can be lucrative, but that extra money you make can go out the door quickly if you get sick.

If you start to get your body used to working a specific schedule, you don’t want to confuse or mess it up by working a mix of shifts. That internal clock will head into a tailspin!

Related post: 9 Shift Work Roster Tips to Stay in Control of Your Schedule

Lastly, try not to make night shift permanent. There are people who love working overnights and flourish, but most people cannot work those shifts for extended periods of time. If you are able to at all, try to only work overnight for a short period of time and not avoid making it your permanent job.

If you’re trying to enjoy a longer, deeper sleep on the night shift, you’ve got to watch this video.

In Summary; How Can I Boost My Night Shift Immune System?

You can work overnights and remain healthy. Sure it takes a little extra effort, but your body and mind will love you for it in the long run. If you find yourself feeling zapped of energy or starting to get sick, remember the points within this article and reverse the trend as quick as you can.

Above all else, a solid days sleep (7-9 hours) will provide you with a large boost to that immunity that your body has been craving.

For my last tip, if you can’t sleep you’ve got to check out these weird tips which actaully work.

Thanks for reading.

Emma signature |

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.

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