How I manage diabetes working rotational shifts

minute read
February 20, 2023
A diabetic Indian office worker, at his desk, reviewing a report.
Note: Image for illustration only. It does not show the author of this story. Photo credit - RODNAE Productions

As a diabetic, maintaining a routine can be a key factor in helping you manage the disease – It can help keep your blood sugar levels under control.

Unfortunately, not everyone’s life runs to a set routine.

I work rotational shifts in a big tech company. My department changes employees’ shifts every 4 weeks. Some weeks I work early mornings. On other weeks I work evenings. And some weeks I even work nights.

Working a rotational job, it took me a while to work out how to manage my diabetes around it.

Here are a few tips I found worked for me and could work for you too:

  1. Keep my essentials with me at all times – When my glucose levels drop, I need to eat immediately. I can’t afford to wait for food delivery or a break to go to the canteen. The same applies to medicine; it’s crucial to stick to a schedule. So I make sure to carry my medication and food supplies to the office, no matter what shift I’m working. Don’t miss meals or your prescribed medicines and insulin shots. Eating and taking medication on time will keep you fit and healthy and avoid mental and physical exhaustion.
  2. Informed my supervisor about my conditions – After I completed my training, I made sure to tell my shift supervisors about my diabetes and how it could affect me. A few understood and tried to give me morning or evening shifts. Some weren’t able to change shift schedules but made a point of informing me at least 1 week before changing my shift (this helped me start prepping my routine and activities to match the new timing). Reach out to your managers, and connect with people who understand you. You never know how someone can help or who else may be going through a similar situation and could be a good support. Never assume you’re alone (over 77 million people in India have diabetes).
  3. Keep explanatory notes on my desk in case of emergency – I stick my emergency contact on my desk, so if I experience any side effects from my diabetes, my colleagues know who to reach out to. I also have a keychain on my office bag with an emergency contact. These may never be needed, but it doesn’t hurt to have them and provides peace of mind.
  4. Follow a sleep schedule – I make sure to sleep 8 hours before my shift. This is difficult in the beginning, but you get used to it. If you can’t sleep, even taking a rest helps. I also take Lantus, a long-acting insulin, and start to shift the timing of my shots 1 or 2 days before my working hours are due to change. This helps me keep my blood glucose levels in check (especially for my fasting blood sugars) and avoid hypoglycemia.
  5. Stay physically active – Most gyms and fitness centres close after 11pm, but I made sure to join one that’s open 24 hours. That way, no matter what my shift timings are, I can go to the gym and stay fit. When working out, I stay well-hydrated and don’t do heavy workouts. I have a desk job, so to avoid a sedentary lifestyle I do a moderate-intensity workout. Physical health helps mental health. You should aim for 10,000 steps a day, and to take brisk walks after every meal. This helps keep you refreshed and your blood glucose level in control.
  6. Care for your emotional well-being – At first, I thought I’d fall behind my peers as they would easily take on any job, at any time, and I wouldn’t be able to compete. But I was wrong. I proved myself in my role, even when I couldn’t take on shifts last minute. I did it by studying, listening to success stories, and staying motivated. With a clean and active lifestyle, you can combat diabetes. Compared to the last few decades, there are many healthy food options and resources available for diabetics. Never forget, you’re in control.

These simple steps helped me control my condition through my shift work, excel in my career and avoid the dawn phenomenon. And I’m confident they can work for you too.

It takes effort to manage diabetes. But diabetics are fighters, and you just need to stay focused on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. And keeping your glucose level in control will help control your stress too.

Profile photo of Zohaib Khan, a type 1 diabetic and rotational shift office worker.
Zohaib Khan

Zohaib Khan is a 26 year old type-1 diabetic who works rotational shifts at a multinational IT firm. He feels he has the same opportunities as his peers and encourages people with any underlying health conditions to pursue any line of work, regardless of timing.

Editor's note: The opinions and experiences reflected in stories from the diabetic community belong to the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of InDiabetes.

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