Which Vitamins Should I Take on Night Shift?

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Vitamin D, Melatonin, B12, Magnesium, Tryptophan and multivitamins are often recommended for those of us working the night shift, but are they all necessary? Pharmaceutical companies can easily convince our tired brains they have the answer to boosting our fatigue levels and helping us sleep during the day. But which vitamins are actually worth our hard-earned money?

Magnesium is a must take vitamin when working night shift. It helps restore healthy bodily functions at times of stress. Other Vitamins like Vitamin D, B12 and multivitamins can be considered, but you should emphasize consuming a healthy, timed diet with adequate sun exposure where possible.

I am a firm believer that maintaining a healthy diet, considering when we eat rather than just what we eat and getting out into the sun late in the afternoon for some exercise, even a slow walk, will do a better job than most vitamins. But some of them do have a place, let’s explore what they are and why you may need them.

An Introduction to Night Shift Vitamins

Starting to take a new vitamin or supplement should be something you talk about with your doctor first.

While you can buy almost everything over the counter and online without a fuss, not all of these tablets are necessary or even recommended based on your personal health conditions and past medical history.

My aim, as a fellow night shift worker and nurse is to educate you on the possible vitamins you could consider taking while working nights. There is no blanket rule for everyone. Some vitamins will have amazing effects on some people, whilst doing the complete opposite for others.

Just be cautious with what you are taking and don’t follow the crowd, even when you’re exhausted.

[VIDEO] – Should you take vitamins? A doctors perspective.

Recommended Night Shift Vitamin: Magnesium

“Magnesium is an essential mineral, one of seven essential macro-minerals that the human body needs in large quantities”. (source) But the interesting thing is, our bodies don’t naturally produce it. We need to get it from foods and drinks high in magnesium like:

  • Legumes
  • Unprocessed whole grains
  • Broccoli, squash and green leafy vegetables
  • Seeds and nuts especially almonds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and cashews
  • Dairy products such as meats, chocolate and coffee.
  • Water with a high mineral content, or “hard” water, is also a source of magnesium
  • Coffee

But why is Magnesium so “essential?”

You may have heard that magnesium is linked to strong bone growth. While that’s true (source) it is useful for so many other purposes such as:

  • Proper functioning of nerves and muscles
  • In the stomach, magnesium helps neutralize stomach acid and moves stools through the intestine.
  • Improved heart health (source) and lowering blood pressure particularly in those with insulin resistance, prediabetes or other noncommunicable chronic diseases. (source)
  • Stabilizes mood, such as anxiety disorders (1, 2)
  • Promotes better sleep (1, 2)
  • “Plays a key role in energy production, activating ATP, the energy molecule that fuels your body’s cells” (source)
  • Helps regulate blood sugar levels (source)
  • Helps control our stress response

While this list is impressive, it’s the last point which may be the most important for those of us working nights.

Night shift workers’ bodies are biologically stressed.

We work against our body clocks circadian rhythm on a regular basis often becoming sleep-deprived. This can result in fatigue, leading to poor lifestyle and food choices. Sounds too familiar?

When we are stressed our magnesium stores quickly become depleted, and the downward spiral continues.

But taking a magnesium supplement can help.

Our body has something called GABA, a busy neurotransmitter that blocks messages between nerve cells in the brain. (source) If we don’t have enough of it our moods can fluctuate massively resulting in anxiety, mood disorders and chronic pain.

The cool thing about magnesium is it maintains healthy levels of GABA which allows us to relax, promoting sleep, even throughout the day. (source)

If you’re wondering whether you have low magnesium, watch this video. It’s very informative.

Night shift workers who suffer from insomnia may benefit from taking magnesium as this vitamin has a positive link with insomnia sufferers. (source) How many of you struggle to sleep during the day?

If we don’t get enough magnesium, we risk chronic health disease from odds already stacked against us when working nights. We explore what theses are in a post we wrote titled, Is Night Shift Bad for You? 11 Truths Uncovered which I encourage you to check out.

“Low magnesium levels in the body have been linked to diseases such as osteoporosis, high blood pressure, clogged arteries, hereditary heart disease, diabetes and stroke”. (source)

Tablets | Which Vitamins Should I Take on Night Shift?

What to Look for When Buying Magnesium Vitamins

While you can try and boost your intake of the high magnesium foods we mentioned earlier, taking a vitamin supplement may be equally if not more effective, particularly for those working overnight.

I know when I work nights, I don’t want to eat a leafy green cold salad with broccoli and squash at 3am. And to be honest, I just won’t despite how good it is for me as I am craving…better.

We talk a lot on this blog about night shift meal choices and food timing because I understand how hard it can be. So in this special case, I do recommend a magnesium supplement if you are not getting between at least 300 to 400 mg of magnesium from your diet. (1, 2)

In simple terms, 1-ounce (28-grams) of dark chocolate equals 64 mg. 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of cashews contains 82 mg of magnesium. (source)

So you’re standing in the supplement aisle, where do you start?

What you need to know:

  • Not all magnesium supplements are created equal. Here are just a few of the names you’ll see written next to magnesium – aspartate, bicarbonate, carbonate, chloride, citrate (should be avoided by people with kidney disorders), gluconate, hydroxide, lactate, malate, orotate, oxide, taurate, threonate and trisilicate. All equal different outcomes, so this is why it’s a good idea to chat to your doctor first.
  • Your first choice may not be the right one for you. Trial and error may be required before you find the right dosage and brand.
  • Some contain lead and other particles not able to be properly broken down. Remember to look at the label first. Do you recognize all the ingredients?
  • Magnesium is often accompanied by calcium in the same tablet. Don’t assume you are low in calcium and by taking that tablet, you are getting a “two-for-one”. Consumer Lab states, “it may be best to take these minerals separately when taking high doses, as they can compete for absorption”.
  • Though generally well tolerated, possible side effects are bloating, diarrhoea, upset stomach, nausea and vomiting. (source)

Important Takeaways:

  1. You must choose a magnesium supplement that best suits the reason you want/need to take it such as sleep, restless legs, digestion problems or constipation etc. (source)
  2. The amount of magnesium shouldn’t exceed what you need.
  3. Though some tables advertise up to 600mg, stick to a maximum of 350mg. (source)

The brilliant Dr. Axe, a doctor and online health educator will often recommend this product. Along with 300mg of magnesium, it also contains probiotic-fermented Vitamin D (more on this later) and organic turmeric root extract.

Other Vitamins and Supplements for Night Shift Workers

Some of you might be thinking, why doesn’t she recommend vitamin D, B Vitamins or even Melatonin as a “staple” for night shift workers? Well, as I mentioned earlier, I don’t believe they are necessarily essential just because we work nights. A little harsh maybe, but stay with me.

While they can enhance certain people’s health and wellbeing, eating a healthy, balanced diet at the right time overnight, whilst maintaining regular exercise and getting out in the sun at any opportunity can work wonders, naturally, saving you money and potential side effects.

But I do want to point out and educate you on some common and not so common vitamins and supplements you may consider when working nights, after consultation with your doctor.

  • Vitamin D
  • B Vitamins
  • Tryptophan
  • Melatonin
  • Multivitamin

Let’s explore these a little further.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D, commonly referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”, is produced by the body when our skin is exposed to sunlight.

Very few foods except orange juice, cheese, egg yolk and fatty fish (salmon) contain vitamin D, making our need to be outside in the sun critical. (source) But of course, this is much harder for night shift workers than it is for regular 9-5 workers as we are, of course, asleep during the day.

So how can night shift workers get more vitamin D without taking a supplement?

Firstly, we have to know there is a problem in order to change our lifestyle and behaviors. Then, and only then, can we prioritize getting out in the sun as part of our everyday routine.

Here are a few ideas to getting more vitamin D:

  1. Going to bed earlier and sooner once getting home from work so you can get up earlier in the afternoon. This gives you more opportunity to spend time outside before it gets dark.
  2. Organize to exercise with a friend outside late in the afternoon. See this post for more night shift exercise tips.
  3. Enjoy dinner outside with your family before work while the sun is still shinning.
  4. Walk or catch public transport to pick up your kids from school then go for a walk with them after school
  5. Take the dog for a walk after you wake. See how to manage your dog and shift work here.
  6. Pull out the weeds, water the plants and attended to some gardening once you wake up in the afternoon
  7. Eat/drink more orange juice, cheese, egg yolk and fatty fish such as salmon.

You only need brief periods of regular sun exposure without sunscreen for your skin to make a sufficient amount of vitamin D. 

Live Strong (source)

If the above five suggestions are tricky in reality, consider take a vitamin D supplement of at least 1000 IU. (source) We recommend Ancient Nutrition – Vitamin D – 5,000 IU from Amazon.

Just remember: if we don’t get enough vitamin D we are at risk of:

  • Weak bones. Vitamin D helps the body use calcium from the diet which is essential for strong bones (source)
  • Poor heart health
  • Cognitive impairment in older adults
  • Increased cancer risk (source)

“Vitamin D may increase the amount of magnesium the body absorbs. This is more likely when taking high doses of Vitamin D”.


VIDEO – We talk a bit about why the sun is so important to enjoy on night shift (at certain times) in this video below.

B Vitamins

B Vitamins such as:

  • B1 (thiamine)
  • B2 (riboflavin)
  • B3 (niacin)
  • B5 (pantothenic acid)
  • B6
  • B7 (biotin)
  • B12
  • Folic acid

It helps maintain good health and well-being by playing a huge role in the processes your body uses to get or make energy from the food you eat. (source) B vitamins have a “direct impact on your energy levels, brain function and cell metabolism”. (source)

Most people, including night-shift workers, can maintain the right amount of B vitamins by eating a balanced diet in all food groups. However, if you struggle as a night shift worker to maintain this diet due to fatigue and lack of interest in meal prep (I know the struggle is real!), this vitamin may be worth considering.

Related: 12 Valuable Meal Prep Tips for Busy Shift Workers

One B vitamin, in particular, is B6 which is often recommended for night shift workers because it helps the body “produce serotonin, which improves one’s mood, and norepinephrine, which helps you cope with stress”. (source)

It also helps your body make red blood cells whilst assisting your immune system to fight infection often prone to us working overnight.

With this information in mind, consider taking the following (ad):


According to sleep.org, Tryptophan is an amino acid (a protein) that’s found in turkey, chicken, meat, cheese, yogurt, eggs and fish.

When your body uses tryptophan it turns into a B vitamin called “Niacin”. Niacin plays a key role in creating serotonin, a neurotransmitter that’s associated with sleep and a powerful contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness. (source)

That could be why after thanksgiving dinner you feel so tired – because it’s full of Tryptophan!

Again, it’s relatively simple to achieve adequate levels of Tryptophan if you make a concerted effort to meal plan for a night shift. However, there is a supplement to help those who can’t. You can find them in your pharmacy or through Amazon here.

Pill cup orange


We have spoken a lot about melatonin, our “sleep hormone”, throughout our blog because as night shift workers we often mess around with it affecting our sleep. Such posts are this one, where we discuss blue light blocking glasses and their positive impact on producing melatonin.

For those new to the idea, melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the pineal gland that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycles.

I have taken melatonin many times whilst working night shift, particularly during a run of nights where I simply cannot sleep for multiple reasons, but the truth is, I don’t really like it much. I write about why in this blog post – My Top Tip for Taking Melatonin on Night Shift: Plus 10 More and I encourage you to check it out before taking it.

In saying that, it’s pretty safe when taken correctly and widely popular amongst us shift workers, even those with insomnia to improve sleep quality so you enjoy uninterrupted and complete rest before your next shift.

We recommend starting with the lowest dose and working your way up when necessary rather than starting with larger doses.

These Nature Made Melatonin 3mg TabletsOpens in a new tab. on Amazon (ad) are a good start.

Want to know more about medications linked with Shift Work and Sleep Disorder? Click here.


Want to cover your bases?

According to Dr. Axemultivitamins are a type of supplement that contains a combination of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients used to support better health“.

The benefits of taking a multi-vitamin include:

  • Correct nutritional deficiencies, which is particularly important for night shift workers who tend to make poorer food and lifestyle choices due to fatigue
  • Helps maintain bone strength
  • Improves brain function, perfect for the “fuzzy-minded” shift worker
  • Enhances eye health and may also benefit your heart health
  • Supports healthy pregnancy which can also be negatively impacted during times of stress for female night shift workers. See Shift Work While Pregnant: Survival Tips from 46 Busy Moms

For women, we recommend this product on Amazon but the standard Centrum MultiVitamin is also very effective for both men and women.

Summary: Which Vitamins Should I Take on Night Shift?

Though taking vitamins is probably pretty safe for most 3rd shift workers, it’s best to not assume you need it just because your colleagues are taking it. Talk to your doctor who knows your past medical history and current medications to assess which product (if any at all) is right for you.

I love magnesium and recommended it to night shift workers whilst still focusing on a well-balanced diet, exercise and spending time in the sun with my friends, family and pets wherever possible!


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.

Tablets | Which Vitamins Should I Take on Night Shift?

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.

4 thoughts on “Which Vitamins Should I Take on Night Shift?

  1. When is the best time to take your vitamins as a night shift worker, specifically magnesium?

    1. Hi Liz,
      Thank you for taking the time to comment. First and foremost, we suggest that you speak with a healthcare professional before taking any vitamins or supplements in your diet to make sure they are right for you. But based on our research, we believe it’s ok to take magnesium any time of the day, though you should try and keep it consistent for your body and not vary when you take it form day to day. Most of us are creatures of habit after all!

  2. Good article, I working long extend periods of night shift (11pm to 11am) at sea for 5-9 weeks straight. I started taking a high dose Magnesium supplement as I was experiencing severe headaches, eyelid twitching and muscle twitching. It made an almost instant difference, and I have stayed on that program now for years.
    I am going to start taking a Vit D supplement as well. It’s ok in the summer when I am able to walk for 30mins after shift outside, but in the winter when the weather is dangerous and less sunlight hours it is difficult.

    1. Hi Olan. Thank you for taking the time to share and you must love the water, being on a boat for that period of time!
      Feel free to share this with your fellow workers should they also require a little guidance at some time.
      Keep up the great work.

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