Though working in night shifts is not so uncommon today, normal hours of work are generally meant for the day. This act of working against the normal body-clock leaves no time for recreation and rest. Rest is a night time activity and work is a daytime activity. The sleep patterns get disturbed when people work in shifts or with extended hours.
Working during the night and resting in the day makes us get away from our body clock. While night shifts have become a common phenomenon today, it not only ruins our social lives but can also have an impact on our health.
Here is how working night shifts may affect your health:
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- Sleep: Extended hours of work or shift timings have an adverse effect on sleep. Sleep loss is the major effect of shifts and it is mostly noticed after a night shift. The shift work can even affect the quality of sleep and the quantity of sleep may be reduced by up to two hours a day. This can lead to sleepiness at work and the effects of shift work are linked to distance from home to the workplace.
- Tiredness: People working in abnormal hours often complain about feeling tired. It is particularly noticed after a night shift when compared to morning or afternoon shifts. However, this complaint has been reduced in people who have improved physical fitness.
- Mental Health: Working at night shifts can have a great negative impact on mental health. People who work night shifts are at a higher risk of developing anxiety and depression. Staying awake during the night on a regular basis leads to a gradual drop in creativity, alertness, and productivity when compared to those who sleep at night.
- Gastrointestinal Disorders: Many people who are shift workers complain that they suffer from digestive disorders frequently. Also, they often suffer from heartburn, dyspepsia (indigestion) and abdominal pains.
- Reproductive Issues: Women of reproductive age are at higher risk of developing fertility issues due to working in night shifts. This may be probably due to the disruption of the menstrual cycle and increased stress. Some of the special health conditions that result due to the shift work include spontaneous abortion, low birth weight, and prematurity.
- Breast Cancer: Women who work in night shifts for long periods are at higher risk of developing breast cancer. The main reason why night work might increase the risk of breast cancer is not completely known. But the shift work often leads to unhealthy lifestyle habits that could independently increase breast cancer risk. So, women should improve their physical activities to maintain a healthy weight and also reduce the intake of alcohol.
- Cardiovascular Diseases: Night shifts can cause a heart attack. The risk of heart disease increases due to independent causes such as unhealthy diet and lack of physical exercise. Though we know the factors that cause coronary heart diseases – such as smoking, poor diet, no physical activity, and high BMI, rotating work shifts are one of the main causes of cardiovascular diseases.
Diabetes & Obesity: Shift workers don’t get enough sleep and sleeping at the wrong time of day can increase the risk of diabetes and obesity. Abnormal changes in sleep patterns can cause the body to struggle to control and maintain sugar levels. Disrupted sleep could also affect metabolism and raised blood sugar would lead to increased risk of developing obesity and diabetes.