Night shift is a recognized risk factor for health and can affect safety and social well-being.
Night shift can affect one’s health and performance.
Night shift has serious impact on workers and their families.
Night shift workers have little opportunity to interact in social or family gatherings and are under huge stress and strain in coping with daily issues, both at home and at work place.
According to the studies, shift workers suffer from number of health problems. The problems include sleep disorders, fatigue, high blood pressure, heart disease, ulcers and gastrointestinal upsets.
Night shift causes mismatch between the circadian rhythm and environmental synchronizers and many psychological functions such as sleep-wake cycle is disrupted.
Circadian rhythm is important for optimal functioning of the many processes vital to health. When circadian rhythm is disturbed by lack of sleep or by crossing different time zones, it takes days or weeks for your body to adjust.
Shift work and health:
Shift lag syndrome is caused due to night shifts and it is characterized by feelings of sleepiness, fatigue, irritability, digestive trouble, insomnia, poorer mental agility, digestive problems and reduced performance efficiency.
Disturbed sleep is the common effect on night shift workers. Shift workers report more sleep disturbances than day workers. After a night shift, there are between two and four hours loss of rapid eye movement sleep and it usually takes two nights of sleep after the last night shift before normal sleep is restored. Night shift workers are more tired when driving to and from home than non-shift workers.
The common health problems in night shift workers are gastrointestinal complaints such as diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain and heart burn. The causes for these health problems are poor diet high in saturated fats. The person consumes too much fast food because of lack of time to prepare healthy foods.
Nighttime, there will be difficulty in digesting food. Heart disease is an added risk in night shift workers. Due to increased consumption of fast foods that are high in saturated fats, you can suffer from coronary heart disease.
Night shift affects functioning and therefore efficiency and safety. Alertness, performance and metabolism all reach to lower levels in the early morning. Concentration is decreased. Mistakes caused by tiredness are more likely to occur. These mistakes occur because the person fails to recognize the existence of serious problem.
Night shift guidelines:
- To minimize the affects of night shift on your health, take breaks and naps.
- Decrease the number of night shifts worked in a row.
- Avoid extended work hours that include prolonged shifts and excessive overtime.
- Get sufficient sleep on days off.
- Practice good sleep hygiene. Plan and arrange a sleep schedule that sets your work timings.
- After the work, sleep in a quiet, cool and calm environment where there is no noise, light and other disturbing factors.
- Avoid stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine which further disturb your sleep.
- Exercise in daytime for 20 to 30 minutes as it keeps your body healthy.