Health Effects Of Working In Night Shifts
There are so many people in India who work in night shifts. Now, going against nature is never the right thing to do. If you happen to be working at night and sleeping during the day, then this post is for you. Read on.
How the sleep-wake cycle works?
The sleep-wake cycle has been evolved for humans to stay awake during the day and to go to sleep for about 8 hours at night. The ‘circadian clock’ is a part of the brain that monitors the amount of light visible to you. In the evening , as the light starts getting dim, your body notices it and a chemical called melatonin is secreted, which signals the body to go to sleep. As the sun rises, the chemical drops and remains low during the day time.
During the day, chemicals or neurotransmitters like noradrenaline and acetylcholine get increased in the body and keep you awake. This system of the body keeps you in sync with the day-night cycle. The changing rate of activity every 24 hours is called the circadian rhythm. A person doing night shifts is working against the circadian rhythm and this can be hazardous to health.
Body’s metabolism at night
After the circadian rhythm an important body function is the internal body temperature. The temperature of the body is known to increase during the day. It hits a lower level in the wee hours of the morning and touches the maximum level by late afternoon.
When your temperature decreases you fall asleep and stay asleep. As the temperature of the body rises, it gets more difficult to stay asleep. This is why night shift workers who go to bed at 8 am find it difficult sleep and remain asleep all day long.
A person who works in night shifts, has his/her circadian rhythm disrupted and is at a greater risk of health disorders and accidents and they are as follows:
- Increased chances of obesity
- An increased risk of cardiovascular disease
- Mood changes
- More chances of gastrointestinal problems like constipation and discomfort in stomach.
- Increased cancer risk, breast cancer in particular
- Increased risk of work related and motor vehicle accidents
- Increased chances of family problems
Night shift workers tend to sleep 2 to 3 hours less than other people. They sleep in the day in 2 periods, a few hours in the morning and then an hour before going to work at night. Overall, it is difficult for them to sleep properly as it is not possible to keep the environment dark, cool and noise-free.
What about rotational shifts?
People with rotational shifts too find it difficult as for one week or so they work during the day and then the next week they need to work at night. The best rotating shift is yet to be decided. Some people say that short rotations of 2 to 3 days is good whereas others advocate prolonged rotation.
It takes the body about 10 days to get adjusted to night shift work. But on the days off, they revert back to daytime routines that make their circadian rhythm unstable.
The number of hours of the shift is also controversial. A 12 hour shift stretches the tolerance of the body too far. There should not be any overtime during the 12 hour rotation shifts.
The bottom line
The sad part is that there are people who have to work in night shifts or rotational shifts as they have no other choice. You may find this post useful if you work in shifts- click!
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