"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Shift work can harm sleep and health: What helps?

When our sleep schedule is even barely off, we will feel groggy. So what happens when shift work repeatedly requires people to not sleep all night and sleep through the day—and the way can they protect their health and well-being?

What is Shift Work Disorder?

Growing evidence, including several latest studies, paints a worrisome picture of the potential health consequences of unconventional shift work schedules that affect 15% to 30% of staff within the US and Europe, including factory and warehouse staff. , law enforcement officials, nurses, and other first responders.

“People who work 9-to-5 shifts typically wake up at sunrise, which aligns with their body's internal circadian clock. But for shift workers, their work hours and sleep times are different. are misaligned with natural cues to wakefulness,” says Chow. “They're working against the natural inclination of the universe — not just their body.”

What is the connection between shift work and health?

A 2022 Research Overview I Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine Links work to higher risks for serious health problems, resembling heart attack and diabetes. This research suggests that adversarial effects may include metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions that increase the chance of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke), accidents, and certain kinds of cancer.

“Research is continuous and powerful,” says Zhou. “Working and sleeping improperly with natural light for long periods of time is unlikely to be healthy for you.”

How do latest studies on shiftwork add to our understanding?

The latest research adds to and strengthens earlier findings, teasing out specific health effects that will arise from shift work.

  • Shift staff On a rotating schedule Eat more irregularly and continuously, snack more at night, and potentially eat less healthy foods with more calories than those that work through the day, a study published online found. Advances in nutrition seems. The evaluation reviewed 31 previous studies involving greater than 18,000 participants, comparing staff' average intakes over 24 hours.
  • Disruption of circadian rhythms by shift work increases the percentages of colorectal cancer, a malignancy with a robust association with lifestyle aspects. 2023 review of several studies published online Journal of Investigative Medicine. The study authors said that this higher risk may involve exposure to artificial light at night with complex genetic and hormonal interactions amongst partners.

“Cancer understandably scares people, and the World Health Organization recognizes that shift work can potentially cause cancer,” says Zhou. “A combination of chronically insufficient and poor-quality sleep is likely to get under the skin. That said, we don't fully understand how it happens.”

How are you able to protect your sleep and your health?

If you're employed overnight or early morning shifts, how will you make sure that you sleep higher and more restfully? Zhou offers these evidence-based suggestions.

Time your exposure to vivid and dim light. Graveyard shift staff whose work schedules run from midnight to eight a.m., for instance, should reduce their light exposure as much as possible after they leave work in the event that they plan to sleep after returning home. reduce “These steps can take the form of wearing blue light blocking glasses or using blackout shades in your bedroom,” he says.

Take loads of time to sleep in your days off. “It's often more difficult than that, because you'll want to see your family and friends during non-work hours,” says Zhou. “You need to really protect your chance to sleep.”

Maintain a consistent shift work schedule. “Also, try to minimize the number of consecutive days you work heavy shifts,” he says.

Talk to your employer. Perhaps your boss can schedule you for shorter night shifts. “You can also ask your doctor to remove you from these shifts or allow you more flexibility,” says Zoe.

Find practical solutions that help you sleep more comfortably. “People engaged in shift work typically have family responsibilities in addition to their job, often working under a more typical 9-to-5 schedule,” he notes. “The goal is to preserve as strong a circadian rhythm as possible under the demands of unusual scheduled shift work.”