Shift Work Can Harm Your Health

Kristina Brooks | Sept 15, 2015

1 of 12
1 of 12

Always tired after your shift? Find that you’re dozing off on the job, or that it’s difficult to stay awake even on your day off? But shift work doesn’t just make your sleepy; it can cause other health problems. Here’s what to look for, and some tips to help you deal with it.

2 of 12

It can wreck your body's internal clock

When you work shifts, your body’s circadian rhythm gets off track. This is the process that controls when you awake and when you fall asleep. Though you may be on your way to work, if it’s dark outside your body might respond to the environmental cues - leaving you groggy, with low energy, and unable to be at your best on the job. (Image: Giphy)

3 of 12

Fix it tip #1

Light is one of the biggest cues for your body clock. Those working night shifts live their days in reverse of everyone else, so the key is to have surrounding light patterns reflect that. Only keep lights bright early into the shift, gradually dimming. If you work overnight, wear sunglasses on the way home and keep your home darkened as well. Lastly, try to head to sleep within an hour of leaving your shift. (Image: Giphy)

4 of 12

It makes you more prone to accidents

Often, a disrupted schedule will have your body fighting for sleep while you’re awake. But excessive sleepiness, foggy concentration and even nodding off while at work can cause accidents while driving, operating equipment, or struggling to concentrate on details. (Image: Giphy)

 

5 of 12

Fix it tip #2

It’s important that you don’t rack up too much sleep deficit, while making the most of the sleep you do get. Create an ideal two-week sleep schedule on a calendar. Then, match up your actual sleep habits by recording when and how you sleep within that same two weeks. This will show you what days and areas may need some work to get you on track to your goals. (Image: Giphy)

6 of 12

It can mess with your emotions

The frontal cortex is an area at the front of our brain that’s responsible for cognitive functions such as organization, prioritizing, and performing certain tasks. But it also helps keep our emotions in check. If not well rested, our cortex gets overworked. This leaves us irritable, overwhelmed, and less able to perform detailed tasks that test our patience. (Image: Giphy)

7 of 12

Fix it tip #3

Dreams at night desensitize us from the powerful emotional experiences of the day. But since dreams happen deep into REM cycles, shortened sleep leaves us with a short fuse. REM cycles are about 90 minutes long, so schedule enough time for four to six cycles a night, and set your alarm to wake up only at the end of a 90 minute segment. Also stick to the same amount of sleep every night, keeping with good sleep hygiene. (Image: Tumblr)

8 of 12

Hormone production can get out of whack

This might not seem like a big deal, but it certainly is when you consider norepinephrine, orexin and ghrelin. When imbalanced, norepinephrine can lead to impulsiveness and agitation. Orexin not only regulates wakefulness, but appetite, mood, and works with ghrelin in reward-seeking. An imbalance won’t just leave you grumpy, but may have you reaching for that second or third snack, leading to unwanted weight gain. Yikes. (Image: Wordpress)

9 of 12

Fix it tip #4

On days off, or even in upon waking up prior to your shift, be sure to get some exercise. Exercise helps us blow off steam, stimulate orexin, and release endorphines to keep us feeling uplifted. Also, if you feel yourself having a craving or feeling down, give orexin a boost with natural green tea. (Image: Giphy)

10 of 12

It can drain your immune system

Growth hormones that are regulated within the body also are responsible for cell repair and building immune defenses in adults. Sadly, those who sleep less or have disrupted sleep patterns have less quality time to build up defenses, and are left with weaker immune systems, making them more vulnerable to an illness or trauma. (Image: Giphy)

11 of 12

Fix it tip #5

You’re no good for anyone, even yourself, when you’re sick. Follow a healthy diet to keep yourself balanced nutritionally, particularly when you may be lacking in sleep. Taking a regular multivitamin, as well as boosting your vitamin C levels, may also help keep your body defenses strong and give your immune system a boost. To find out what vitamins and supplements are right for you, consult your doctor. (Image: Giphy)