It’s probably not a big surprise to shiftworkers that research shows caffeine consumption is higher on the night shift than during the day or evening shifts.
But java junkies and energy drink fiends take note: It might be a good idea to consider substituting tea for at least one of your daily caffeinated beverages.
Why? Caffeinated tea offers the alertness boost you want on the night shift – plus several health benefits – without some of the drawbacks of coffee and energy drinks.
Learn the health benefits associated with tea and how it can help you when working long or night shifts. Looking for more Working Nights Tips, subscribe to our Working Nights Newsletter.
Among the health benefits associated with tea in recent studies:
Lower cancer rates. Tea consumption is linked to lower rates of cancer of the stomach, mouth, skin, and lungs in both human and animal studies. Researchers attribute this lower cancer rates to chemicals in tea called polyphenols, which may have antioxidant characteristics that prevent cell damage that can lead to cancer.
Better cardiovascular health. Drinking tea has been found to lower the risk for both heart attacks and strokes. Tea also helps lower cholesterol levels, while some research suggests coffee can actually elevate them. These benefits are especially important for shiftworkers, who have higher rates of high cholesterol than do non-shiftworkers.
Improved dental hygiene. Both green and black tea are believed to prevent dental decay by inhibiting the bacteria responsible for plaque formation. Green tea can also inhibit the bacteria that cause bad breath.
There are three major types of tea: black (what most people think of as “regular” tea), green (the traditional favorite in China —and increasingly popular in North America—and the least processed), and oolong (made from partially-processed tea leaves). A fourth option, herbal tea, is not actually derived from the tea plant, but from other plants and herbs, such as peppermint and chamomile.
Green tea is considered the most potent source of health benefits, largely because it contains the highest amount of cancer-preventing antioxidants. Black and oolong teas seem to offer the same health benefits as green tea, but to a lesser extent. Though herbal tea also may be a source of health benefits, it usually does not provide the level of antioxidant benefits of regular tea.
In terms of caffeine, black, green, and oolong all are available in both caffeinated and decaffeinated versions. Herbal tea seldom contains caffeine, making it a good choice when you’re in the mood for a hot drink before going to bed.
What about instant tea, iced tea and sweet tea? Experts believe most instant tea and prepared iced tea is too highly processed to offer any significant health benefits. Sweet tea (made of water, ice, sugar and black tea) does offer health benefits, but just be mindful of the amount of sugar in each cup, which is similar to many sodas.
Less Caffeine, but a Satisfying Substitute - Given tea’s benefits, consider substituting tea for at least one of your daily cups of coffee or energy drink. Keep in mind that a typical cup of tea contains just under half the amount of caffeine in a cup of drip coffee or a can of many energy drinks.
While this is a significant difference, you’ll still get some of the alertness boost of the traditional brew. In fact, for those of you looking to cut down of the amount of caffeine you consume, but still want something hot to drink, tea can be a nice solution.
Easier on the Stomach - Another big reason many shiftworkers turn to tea instead of coffee on the night shift is that many people find tea to be easier on their stomachs than coffee. This can be a big help for people who suffer from heartburn. Green tea, which has a lower acidity level than coffee, can be a good choice for those with heartburn.
Tea and Sleep - As with coffee and energy drinks, the caffeine in tea can disrupt your sleep. If you’re planning to sleep as soon as you get home, it’s best to go easy on any caffeinated beverage near the end of your shift. Switching to decaffeinated or herbal tea allows you to enjoy a warm, healthy beverage and still get good quality sleep.
What’s Your Beverage of Choice for the Night Shift? While it seems coffee is still the king of the night shift, many shiftworkers are opting these days for other beverages such as water, tea, sports drinks, soda and energy drinks. And many shiftworkers experiment with different beverages to find what keeps them alert and feeling good.
What’s your beverage strategy for the night shift?
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