Contrary to what most people think, sleep is not a luxury. It is a necessity to function properly. Good sleep serves as an energy boost. You wake up feeling alert and refreshed, ready to take on the day's challenge.
Having a work schedule that deprives you of sleep may not seem like a big deal at first, but in the long run, your health suffers terribly, and falling asleep becomes a problem. As businesses expand, more employers are requesting employees to work night shifts, which is something that was previously exclusively done in certain industries, like the security or medical sectors.
Why Is it Crucial to Maintain Health While Working a Night Shift?
The circadian rhythm of the human body controls when we should be awake and when we should rest.
This innate routine establishes how our day and night are divided, as well as how our body systems are managed. Healthline discusses the circadian rhythm and biological clock in Everything to Know About Your Circadian Rhythm.
During the day, when we are naturally prepared for activity, most individuals work. Contrarily, night shifts run against the body's biological clock and may cause pattern disruption. You can see how working night shifts can disrupt the circadian rhythm in the NCBI article Shift Work: Disrupted Circadian Rhythms and Sleep—Implications for Health and Well-Being.
Even though working the night shift has numerous advantages, this disturbance can be challenging to get past. You can see the advantages of working the night shift in 9 BENEFITS OF WORKING THE NIGHT SHIFT by LeaderStat.
If you're working unconventional hours, keep reading to find out about the dangers of working night shifts and advice on how to put your emotional and physical health first. Your ability to put your well-being first will determine how effectively you handle night shifts.
15 Best Tips for Working Night Shift
Here are some tips for staying healthy when putting in those lengthy hours:
Establish a Sleep Schedule
To get your body ready for the demanding hours of a night shift, establish a regular sleeping schedule. If you like to incorporate naps into your schedule and are a nurse practitioner or firefighter, try sleeping from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and taking a nap from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. to recharge before your shift.
If naps aren't your thing, think about sleeping from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m.before you leave for work. It may take a while for your body to adjust but eventually having a consistent sleep schedule will help you rest properly and stay healthy.
You'll feel more energized and alert if you drink enough water in addition to eating a balanced diet.
Avoid energy drinks, and sugary drinks like soda and fruit juices because they will cause a spike in your blood sugar and a subsequent drop. See the relationship between sugary drinks and diabetes in Sugary Soft Drinks and Diabetes by Diabetes.co.uk.
Enough water consumption keeps organs operating properly, controls body temperature, prevents infections, and delivers nutrients to cells. NCBI discussed the health benefits of staying hydrated in NCBI's Water, Hydration and Health.
Consume Caffeine Wisely
For night shift workers attempting to maintain the levels of energy required to complete their obligations throughout the night, coffee and tea come in quite handy. To avoid collapsing during your night shift work, keep in mind to consume in moderation.
Also, to avoid having trouble sleeping when you arrive home, it is advised you stop drinking caffeine around 2 or 3 in the morning. You can read up on the effects of caffeine on sleep and night function in Effects of caffeine on sleep quality and daytime functioning by NCBI.
Stick to Healthy Meals
Eating foods loaded with sugars and trans fats might make working the night shift more challenging by upsetting your stomach and generating unstable blood sugar levels. You can verify this statement in Impact of postprandial glycaemia on health and prevention of disease by NCBI.
For moments you feel hungry, bring along healthy snacks and meals like salads, fruits, vegetables, and trail mix. Prepare your meals at the beginning of the week to get a jump on the process. By doing this, you'll spend less time getting ready and considering healthy meal options for the rest of the week.
Avoid Rotating Shifts
Your body will become accustomed to your schedule if you can cluster your shifts wherever possible.
Rotating shifts can be quite challenging to get used to, and they may make you feel exhausted all the time as your body tries to catch up with the shifting rhythm. You can read more about this notion in Coping with Shift Work by UCLA Health.
While working, scheduling brief breaks for walks will help you stay awake and maintain healthy blood circulation throughout your body, thereby preventing health issues.
Every hour or so, take a little walk to relieve stress and stretch your legs. BetterHealth corroborates this tip in Walking for good health.
Prioritizing exercise is a piece of great advice for night shift workers who want to stay healthy.
You are more likely to gain weight, and develop diabetes and heart disease if you work the night shift. So, you must adopt a regular workout schedule if you want to assist mitigate these dangers. Medical News Today confirms this assertion in ‘Night owls’ may have greater type 2 diabetes and heart disease risk than ‘early birds’.
Find a fitness regimen you like and stick to it. Even if it's only for ten minutes a day, be sure you can regularly do it. You can find the best aerobic exercise equipment in the Ultiblog Best Products category The Top Rated Aerobic Gymnastics Equipment.
Shift workers who work the night shift may experience negative psychological effects, thus it's critical to actively prioritize your mental health. PubMed cites the health consequences of shift work in Mental Health Consequences of Shift Work: An Updated Review.
Consider establishing self-care routines that will give you time to think, re-connect with yourself, and gain a deeper understanding of how you're feeling, such as writing or meditation. Stress reduction can be greatly aided by deliberately trying to think positively and partaking in relaxing activities. See 10 Simple Ways To Relieve Stress by Healthline.
Take Power Naps
Night shift workers may benefit from strategically scheduled naps to improve alertness and lower the likelihood of mistakes. See more in Napping on the Night Shift: A Two-Hospital Implementation Project by NCBI.
Consider approaching management about implementing a night work sleep schedule if there isn't one already.
Maintain Good Sleep Hygiene
Maintaining a regular sleep schedule and providing a sleeping-friendly environment are examples of good sleep hygiene. This can help you prevent shift work sleep disorder, a typical circadian rhythm issue that affects those who work the night time shift and can result in both insomnia and excessive tiredness.
You should limit your exposure to light as much as possible when sleeping throughout the day because intense light disturbs deep sleep. You can confirm this viewpoint in Light and Sleep by Sleep Foundation.
You may ensure that you get a good night's rest by using blackout curtains, donning an eye mask, using a white noise machine or app, and avoiding using electronics before bed. You can find the best sleeping mask in the Ultiblog Best Products category The Highest Ranking Sleeping Mask.
Also, endeavor to use blue-light-blocking glasses if you use your phones or computers for long hours.
Talk With Other Night Shift Workers
It can be difficult to get used to working the night shift at first. Finding a mentor, colleague, or friend who can help you out or can just listen to your worries can be quite helpful.
If you're working your first shift, certainly you'll experience some challenges and it'll help to talk to those who have been doing the shift work long before you. If you bottle up all that stress and worry, your overall health will suffer.
Use of Melatonin Supplements
Night workers usually have irregular sleep patterns and over time this could result in sleep deprivation.
The use of melatonin supplements has been shown to improve the hours of sleep. So, it is a good option for night shift workers suffering from sleep disturbances. You can confirm this study in The effectiveness of melatonin for promoting healthy sleep: a rapid evidence assessment of the literature by NCBI.
Routine Medical Examinations
Third shift workers must have routine medical checkups to detect changes in their health, notably those that may have occurred after starting to work nights.
Working the night shift can have several side effects that, if not identified and treated promptly, can have a negative impact on work performance and general health. These side effects include extreme fatigue during the day, insomnia, stomach, or intestinal problems, and sudden weight loss.
You can confirm this study in The effectiveness of melatonin for promoting healthy sleep: a rapid evidence assessment of the literature by NCBI.
Take Vitamin D Supplements
Vitamin D deficiency might be a problem for persons who work late shifts and sleep during the day. Green leafy vegetables include vitamin D, which is acquired through sunlight and essential for strong bones and muscles. Without it, osteoporosis, osteomalacia, and bone loss with severe pain might happen.
Take some vitamin D supplements if you just don't get enough sunlight during the day to maintain strong and healthy bones. Learn more about Vitamin D deficiency in our Ultiblog article Everything You Need to Know About Vitamin D Deficiency And Neurological Symptoms
Use Your Off Days to Unwind
After working some nights, third shift workers are usually given about 2-3 days to rest. Use these days wisely. Sleep for at least seven hours.
Forget about work, try spending time with loved ones, play some soothing music, go to social events, and try not to use your phones for too long( avoid excess blue light). Doing these will leave you feeling refreshed and get you ready for the next shift work.
Dangers/Negative Effects of Working Night Shifts
Some people work the night shift for creative reasons, while for others, working the night shift is a necessity. Businesses require workers who are prepared to work late hours as customer demand rises. When you begin working night shifts, your body experiences several changes, some of which are negative.
The first stage is recognizing the problems, and the second is taking action to address them one at a time. Please understand that working night shifts or choosing to work them are both perfectly acceptable. But here's the thing, your body wasn't designed to get enough sleep at night and so doing contrary could have some negative effects.
We've looked at tips that could help night shift workers stay healthy, now let's discuss the side effects of skipping a good night's sleep.
Your Circadian Rhythm Is Out of Balance
Your body naturally prefers to sleep at night and be up throughout the day. Your circadian clock suffers when this normal sleep cycle is disrupted.
This is so crucial because your circadian rhythm is directly in charge of eliminating toxins, encouraging internal healing, and effectively carrying out other biological functions. See Circadian Rhythms by NIH.
Reduced production of melatonin
Melatonin, commonly known as the sleep hormone, is responsible for restful sleep. According to a study carried out by NCBI on Measuring Light at Night and Melatonin Levels in Shift Workers, night shift workers produce less melatonin than day shift workers.
More so, those who work the night shift tend to use their phones to stay awake, and excessive blue light from the phone inhibits melatonin production. So if you're a night shift worker, you may experience some sleep disorders as a result of decreased production of your sleep hormone.
Lack of Quality Sleep
It is difficult to get enough quality sleep when you work at night according to a study, How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?, carried out by the National Sleep Foundation, adults need between seven to nine hours of quality sleep to function effectively.
Good sleep aids productivity boosts your mental health and prevents chronic health conditions like heart disease. Working at night only allows you a few hours of sleep(at most five hours), and chronic sleep deprivation could result in several health issues.
It Stresses You Out
When you work night jobs, your circadian cycle doesn't function well, and your body feels the stress.
This may manifest as elevated blood pressure, elevated blood sugar levels, and a rise in "bad" cholesterol. See Stress and Cholesterol: Is There a Link? by WebMD.
Lack of Exercise
After returning from a stressful night shift, all you want to do is fall asleep and enough rest. The last thing on your mind will be to hit the gym. Lack of exercise could also result in chronic health conditions.
Lack of exercise is a major cause of chronic diseases by NCBI, lack of exercise could also result in chronic health conditions.
Research has shown that people who work day shifts have lower levels of cortisol than those that work nights. You can verify this study in Impact of shift work on the diurnal cortisol rhythm: a one-year longitudinal study in junior physicians by NCBI.
Cortisol is known as the primary stress hormone and increased levels of this hormone could result in binge-eating unhealthy stuff.
Coupled with little or no exercise, this could result in obesity, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The Mayo Clinic verifies these statements in Stress Management.
Constipation and diarrhea are more frequent in night shift workers because our digestive system shifts into " resting mode" overnight, making our gut slow. Other digestive problems include heartburn, peptic ulcer, abdominal pain, etc.
You could confirm these statements in Shiftwork, functional bowel symptoms, and the microbiome by NCBI.
Increased Risk of Breast Cancer
Although they are unsure of the exact cause, researchers appear to have discovered a connection between women's higher risk of breast cancer and working late nights.
NCBI published this study in Night shift work and risk of breast cancer in women: the Generations Study cohort.
Disrupts Your Body Metabolism
Your metabolism and hormones are tightly related. One of them, for instance, is leptin, which influences your ability to control your weight, blood sugar levels, and insulin sensitivity. You can read up on lectin in the Cleveland Clinic's Leptin & Leptin Resistance.
The production and control of certain of these important hormones are interfered with when you work night shifts because your metabolism is disrupted. See more about this piece of formation in Shift work and its association with metabolic disorders by NCBI.
Working night shifts is quite challenging. It could take a toll on your physical, social, and mental health. By understanding the negative effects of working late and applying the above tips to combat these effects, you'll be able to cope with the night job and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
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