Supplements Every Nurse Should Take
Vitamin D is important for healthy functioning, and low levels of Vitamin D have been linked with an increased risk of certain cancers and chronic inflammation, as well as decreased bone density and immune function. Vitamin D is not produced naturally, and the most direct (and easiest) way to get much-needed Vitamin D is through direct sun exposure. As you may imagine–or have already experienced–getting direct sunlight can be difficult, if not impossible, for shift workers. Because of this, taking high-quality Vitamin D supplements is important. We recommend taking 2000-5000IU per day of Vitamin D3 in supplement form, however other methods and amounts are widely available online or at your local pharmacy/grocery store. Feel free to experiment and see what works best for you!
Vitamin B6 is important for your brain to maintain balance and for you to feel energized and clear-minded. Taking B6 will help your body produce serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that plays a vital role in positive moods and maintaining emotional stability. Vitamin B6 also helps the body produce norepinephrine, which helps you better be able to handle and respond to stress without feeling out of control. When working shifts and putting an increased stress load on the body, having adequate (or even higher) levels of B6 becomes even more important. We recommend taking this supplement first thing in the morning for the best effects and to help the body wake up and feel alert.
5-HTP (and GABA)
5-HTP is a supplement that helps the body produce serotonin. Serotonin can be converted into melatonin, which as we previously discussed is important for promoting sleep-wake cycles so you feel tired when you fall asleep and alert when you wake up. While the effects of 5-HTP are beneficial on their own, taking 5-HTP in conjunction with gamma-aminobutyric acid (also known as GABA) has been shown to have an even more profound effect on sleep duration, quality, and the time it takes to fall asleep. GABA is a chemical messenger that helps you to feel relaxed, so joining this with increased melatonin from 5-HTP helps the body to sleep and stay asleep. While this sounds (and often is) great, it is important to pay attention to how you feel after a few days of taking this supplement combination. Some people feel side effects of anxiety or jitters and prefer to directly take melatonin supplements or pursue other avenues. However, many shift workers swear by this combination, so it definitely may be worth a try!
Beyond these supplements, taking a multivitamin is important to ensure your body is getting the nutrition it needs to function well. The night shift can disrupt normal eating and sleeping patterns, both of which are essential for you to feel your best. However, by taking supplements to counteract the negative effects of shift working, you can take charge of your sleep and wake cycles so you can go into work feeling alert and enjoy a nice restful sleep afterward, no matter what the rest of the world is up to!