10 Effects Of Working Night Shifts (And How To Combat Them)

Effects of working night shifts

In many industries, the night shift is a necessary part of the regular workday. Businesses operate through the night to produce as much volume as possible and meet the demands of the market. But employees tasked with working these irregular shifts for prolonged periods of time can suffer from a variety of health issues. What are these issues? And what can be done to prevent them from happening? In this article, the experts at Sling reveal 10 effects of working night shifts and how to combat them.

10 Effects Of Working Night Shifts

Working the night shift forces your body to operate on a schedule that goes against its natural circadian rhythms. Most of the time, it’s not a good idea to go against what mother nature put in place.

That said, it is possible to retrain your body to sleep during the day and stay awake during the night. But if this retraining isn’t done correctly—or isn’t done at all—you can begin to suffer serious medical issues. Here’s how working the night shift can affect your health.

1) Interferes With Natural Sleep Rhythms

Sleep is extremely important for your overall health. While you slumber, your body gets rid of toxins, repairs injury, and reduces stress. Working the night shift interferes with those essential processes. That can lead to many of the disorders on this list.

2) Increases Risk Of Breast Cancer

Women who work overnight are at much greater risk of contracting breast cancer than those who only work during the day. And it doesn’t matter if you work the night shift consistently or just one night a week.

3) Increases Risk Of Heart Attack

A 2012 study in the British Medical Journal concluded that working the night shift caused a seven-percent increase in the likelihood that a person would suffer a heart attack. The study did not address why the risk was greater for those who work the night shift, but researchers theorize that the change in sleep habits affects blood pressure and circulation.

4) Increases Risk Of Depression

Working the night shift also has a negative impact on your mental health. Numerous studies show that the risk of depression and mood disorders increase when you work the night shift.

5) Increases Risk Of Workplace Injury

Example of workplace injury due to night shift

Working the night shift means working against your body’s natural inclination to turn off certain key functions like consciousness and mobility. You can certainly force yourself to stay awake and mobile, but your body still wants to shut down. That leads to a reduction in focus, attention, productivity, and fine motor skills. In certain jobs, when you’re not able to give your work complete attention, the risk of injury increases dramatically.

6) Changes Your Metabolism

Your metabolism is mostly governed by your hormones. The hormone leptin, for example, plays a critical role in regulating your weight, blood sugar, and insulin levels. Working the night shift interferes with the production and circulation of this vital hormone. That can lead to the next set of disorders on this list.

7) Increases Risk Of Obesity And Diabetes

Sleeping during the day and working at night increases your risk of obesity and diabetes. In the case of night-shift workers, these disorders are caused by an imbalance in hormone production. The real danger here is that even if you eat a healthy diet, the hormone imbalance can still lead to obesity and diabetes.

8) Increases Risk Of Gastrointestinal Problems

If you work the night shift for prolonged periods of time, all the effects mentioned above can accumulate and cause gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea and ulcers. That can compound the problems you already have and lead to more serious medical concerns.

9) Suppresses Melatonin

Sunlight streaming in through window

When you work the night shift, you are exposed to light during hours of the day when your body expects it to be dark. This reversal of light and dark suppresses melatonin production and release. Melatonin is responsible for controlling the sleep and wake cycles.

This decrease in melatonin levels means that when you try to sleep during the day, you won’t sleep deeply or get enough sleep for your body to repair itself. As a result, you may suffer from long-term sleep deprivation, which is incredibly bad for your health.

10) Deprives Your Body Of Essential Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for your health. It assists with the absorption of calcium and promotes bone growth. Too little vitamin D results in osteomalacia (misshapen bones) along with a whole host of other disorders, such as:

  • Breast cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Depression

You can get vitamin D by eating foods like cheese, yogurt, tofu, and salmon. But you absorb the vast majority of vitamin D from sunlight. When you work the night shift and sleep during the day, your body doesn’t get the vitamin D it needs to function properly.

If you’re stuck working overnight, don’t worry. There is good news among all this bad news: you can combat the effects of working the night shift. Here are six easy ways.

6 Ways To Combat The Effects Of Working Night Shifts

1) Transition Slowly

Managers should do their best to slowly transition employees from the day shift to the night shift. At the very least, this gives their body time to adjust to the new schedule. If you’re a busy manager faced with organizing team members on multiple day and night shifts, a scheduling app like Sling can simplify and streamline the process considerably.

The Sling mobile app

Sling is a suite of scheduling, time-management, and communication tools designed to keep employees organized, engaged, and on task. Sling is loaded with intuitive tools, like:

  • A cloud-based distribution system
  • A calendar view for easy readability
  • A time clock that allows employees to clock in and out using their mobile devices
  • Push notifications that keep your employees on schedule
  • Advanced communication features to keep your team connected
  • A task list that can be used to keep groups and individuals focused on specific jobs

Sling shift feature

On top of all these powerful tools, Sling provides guidance and helps you avoid conflicts by notifying you about availability, time-off requests, overlapping shifts, and double-bookings. Sling even gives you your very own social media platform.

With Sling’s Newsfeed feature, you can share work files, photos, videos, and links with each and every team member. Sling helps you bring everyone together, keep them organized and informed, and build a better company culture. What more could you ask for from a free app?

2) Enlist The Help Of Those You Live With

Your family’s cooperation is critical if you hope to be successful working the night shift. You will all need to work together to balance such essential activities as:

  • Family time
  • Maintaining schedules
  • Paying bills
  • Shopping
  • Housework

You will also need their help in establishing quiet hours so you can get the sleep you need to function at night.

3) Avoid Caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant that is used to give you a quick boost of energy and keep you awake. The problem with caffeine lies in the fact that it stays in your system for hours after you feel the effects, and it can prevent you from sleeping well after work. Drink water whenever possible to avoid the problems caused by caffeine.

4) Avoid Alcohol

Alcohol can make you fall asleep faster, but it also reduces rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep is the restorative phase of your sleep cycle, so if you interfere with that by consuming alcohol, you effectively interfere with your body’s ability to repair itself.

5) Get Some Sunlight When You’re Not Working

Sunlight for night shift workers

When you’re not working, try to spend at least 30 minutes in the sun. Go for a walk, work in the garden, exercise outdoors, or even just sit and read a book. Doing so will provide your body with the vitamin D it needs to keep you healthy.

6) Sleep In the Right Environment

Sleeping in the right environment can have a big effect on how well and how long you sleep. Here are five ways to ensure that where you sleep isn’t interfering with your quality of sleep:

  1. Keep your room cool (below 68°F).
  2. Make your room as dark as possible.
  3. Make your environment as quiet as possible.
  4. Consider wearing a sleep mask and earplugs.
  5. Turn off all electronics two hours before heading to bed.

These simple steps make it possible to get the best night’s sleep every time, even if you sleep during the day.

Talk To Your Doctor If Working The Night Shift Is Causing Major Problems

If working the night shift is causing you too many health problems, talk to your doctor. She can recommend to your employer that they switch you to the day shift. Doing so can have a profoundly positive effect on your overall health.

For more management solutions, and to try Sling for free, visit GetSling.com today.