Diabetes and Shift Work

Diabetes and Shift Work

Doing Shift Work while Managing Diabetes

Diabetes affects the way your body produces insulin, and it is important to maintain a strict schedule in order to manage this chronic condition. Shift work used to be a hindrance for people with diabetes but with the invention of new monitoring equipment and medications, patients now have increased flexibility and control over their diabetes management. Find out about diabetes and what help exists for diabetes patients who do shift work.

Self-Care and Shift Work

In recent years, there has been a shift in diabetes care to a more patient-centered care as opposed to a physician-centered one. This allows patients to create a treatment and management plan that suits their individual needs, and it provides them with more control over their lives. Shift work can affect this self-management, because it can disrupt your body’s natural circadian rhythm, which affects how you treat it. Working at different hours increases your chance for low blood sugar, but you can put a plan into place as a contingency.

To do this, talk with your employer about putting a written plan into place to avoid low blood sugar and help for diabetes. It could mean something as simple as taking a 5 to 10 minute break to replenish your sugar levels or something as drastic as having hypoglycemia supplies on hand in case something serious happens while you are on shift. Additionally, make sure you have some sort of identification on your person so that if you go into hypoglycemic shock, your employer and co-workers will know what to tell the EMTs.

Plan Ahead

It is important to monitor your glucose level on a regular basis. While you are at work, it may be helpful to check your levels every couple of hours so that you can avoid having any issues or problems with your insulin and the levels can be maintained throughout the workday. In addition, it will be helpful to adhere to strict snacking and meal schedules to ensure that your insulin levels are staying as close to normal as possible.

That being said, speaking with your healthcare professional can be helpful in determining what times of the day you will need to eat if your shift changes to a time that your body is not accustomed to working. Meals and snacking are also important when taking medication, so be sure to talk to your doctor about the proper dosages and frequency of medication use while at work. Help for diabetes is available at most primary care centers.

You need to plan ahead also by determining whether or not a certain job is going to negatively affect your health. If you have foot problems, a job in which it is a requirement to stand for long periods of time may not be the best fit for you. Likewise, if you have heart problems, a job with high stress may not be a good fit for you either. You will need to learn your specific job requirements before you commit to shift work.

Exercise and Medication

Despite working shift hours, it is important that you maintain an exercise routine in your off hours, if you have diabetes. Exercising can help you maintain a sense of normalcy and can provide much-needed health benefits as well. With your shift schedule, you will need to figure out a time and a routine that works best for you.

Taking medications on a shift schedule can be tricky because medication needs to be taken at certain points throughout the day. Many people find that taking rapid and long-lasting insulin analogues can help you vary eating times easily because they are taken every two to three hours. This will come in handy for someone working different shifts.


Regardless of any precautions you take, working shift work can be a strain on your health. Make sure you know whether or not you are capable of taking on the stresses of shift work before you commit to a job. Some shifts are worse than others, but you still need to be able to take control of your own life and manage your own diabetes.



NewLifeOutlook TeamNewLifeOutlook Team
Apr 23, 2014
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