There are millions of workers in the world currently working in the night shift. I have been working in the night shift myself for the past decade and still continue to do so, but it isn’t until recently did I seriously consider about the health risks that came along with it. We all have our own reasons to work in the night, be that a better paycheck or having to work for companies which require you to work rotation/graveyard shifts, and so on. Whatever our reasons, I think we must all be aware of the effects it has on our mind and body in the long run. After looking up a number of articles and studies done by researchers, here are few of the findings I wish to share with you.
Physical Health Risks: Researchers have linked long-term night shift work with increased risk of cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks or heart disease, diabetes wherein people working 16-hour shifts had a 50% increased incidence compared to day shift workers, metabolic syndrome such as unhealthy cholesterol levels, obesity, serious gastrointestinal problems, problems with fertility and pregnancy in women, insomnia, etc. In 2007, the World Health Organization went so far as to state that night shifts were a probable cause of cancer.
Mental Health Risks: Some researchers have found that people working in the night are more likely to experience mood disorders and suffer from symptoms of depression. Night shift work comes with social isolation since their jobs cut them off from their friends or family. When we do work irregular hours, we might eventually feel disconnected with the people in our family or social circle, which can surely take a psychological toll. Recent research have also showed the brains of workers who had done 10 years of night shift had aged by an extra 6-1/2 years.
What can we do about these risks?
The visible risks of working in the night might seem disturbing, but what if we are still required to continue to work in this shift? Fortunately, there are a few small things that we can do.
1. Exercising and having a healthy diet: As many of the risks are associated with obesity and metabolic syndrome, exercising on a regular basis and having a healthy diet can possibly make a difference.
2. Get Adequate Sleep: Research suggests that night shift workers sleep less effectively than day workers. Even a slight exposure to light during the day can wake you up, making it difficult to go back to sleep. Take that extra little effort by eliminating light sources from your bedroom, and you can significantly improve the quality of your sleep.
3. Consult Your Physician: If you are concerned about the health effects of night shift work, you should follow up with a physician on a regular basis to have your health monitored more closely, especially if you already suffer from previous health problems.