Everything you should know about how night shifts affect you.
Shift work has been around for centuries. Ramazzini (1633-1714) noted that bakers, innkeepers, and soldiers worked such hours. The advent of the industrial revolution led to many people working long hours until legislation was introduced to curtail the worst effects of the new factory-based economy. Extensive research has been done on the effects of night shifts on physical, mental and social well being. To minimize the side effects of working irregular hours, major adjustments must be made in everyday life which requires the understanding and support of friends and family.
Effects on Physical Health:
Shift work has been linked to certain chronic diseases and illnesses. Long term night shift work is also associated with an increase in cancer risk, as well as heart disease, ulcers, gastrointestinal problems, and obesity. In addition to these issues, shift workers often have irregular eating habits and poor diets, both of which could increase their risk of metabolic problems.
Shift work also disrupts internal circadian rhythms and causes the workers to essentially become out of sync with the external environment. Shift workers also frequently complain of fatigue. Some studies suggest that there is a reduction of complaints in fatigue after an increase in exercise. However, fatigue is still a widespread concern among those intolerant to shiftwork.
Effects on Mental Health:
Night shifts can greatly increase the risk of mental issues such as depression and social disconnection. This may be a direct result of the disruption of circadian rhythms, which regulates the release of certain hormones in the body. If you work irregular hours, you might eventually feel disconnected to the people in your family or social network.
Effects on Social Well Being:
Humans are inherently social beings. Workers who engage in shift work or work long hours can experience considerable disruption of family and social activities because most of these activities are oriented around the day when the general population is active. This can lead to a feeling of disconnect and eventually lead to social marginalization. Familial and marital responsibilities can also be severely disrupted by shift work. Childcare, housework, shopping, and leaving a partner alone at night can all lead to relationship strain and family dysfunction.
What you can do to minimize, if not counter the effects of night shift?
- Take an hour or so to relax after work, whether it’s day or night time.
- Eat meals at the same time seven days of the week. This will help maintain the body’s internal clock.
- Eat high protein foods to keep yourself alert. Avoid coffee, tea, and other caffeinated drinks, which interfere with sleep. On a coffee break, drink orange juice (protein) and walk around. Physical activity promotes wakefulness and alertness.
- Avoid going to bed on an empty stomach. If you don’t feel like eating, try a glass of milk or dairy products, which promote sleep.
- Get into the habit of working out after waking up. Daytime sleepers should avoid early morning exercise, which can promote wakefulness during the day.
- Block out daytime noises, which can disturb deep and restful sleep. Use comfortable sponge ear plugs or “White Noise” electrical devices such as fans or air conditioners.
In conclusion, it is well documented that shift work can have devastating effects on the physical, mental, and social well being of a person. These tips should help minimize the effects to a certain extent, however, if you’re considering shift work, you should be well aware of the cons and must be mentally prepared to face them.
We realize that night shift work is something that drastically affects the well-being of a lot of people. For this reason, we’ve compiled a list of research papers that help give you a better in-depth look at the effects and how they can be countered.