Dr. Patricia Farrell on Medika Life

Tackling Night Shift Worker Health Perils; Failure to Act Is Unhealthy

Shift work, in some professions, is unavoidable, but it also comes with mental and physical health issues, and workers need to begin to practice self-care to counteract these problems.

An individual’s mental health might be severely affected by working at night. Evidence suggests that night shift workers are likelier to have mental health issues like sadness and anxiety.

This increased risk is because the circadian rhythm can be thrown off, leading to fatigue and stress. And because they work at night, they don’t get to see their friends and families as often or spend time with them, which might amplify the sense of loneliness and despair they already feel.

Researchers discovered that night shift employees were more likely to experience depression than their daytime counterparts. This is in line with the findings of other studies, which indicated that night-shift employees have a higher chance of acquiring anxiety disorders.

Chronic insomnia, sleep disorders, gastrointestinal problems, and infertility are all linked to disruptions in the circadian cycle. In response to changes in light and dark, the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) regulates the body’s natural 24-hour circadian rhythm.

The circadian rhythm controls not only the generation of hormones but also the maintenance of a steady core temperature and the rate at which nutrients are burned.

People who work night shifts have trouble falling asleep during the day because the regular light-dark cycle is disturbed. This makes the hormone melatonin, which helps you sleep, less effective.

Working the night shift is linked to a greater chance of gaining weight and developing type 2 diabetes. Another research study came to the conclusion that working the night shift makes you more likely to get colorectal cancer. Such an association might be a result of stress on our immune system.

This is because your body’s internal clock isn’t in sync with your social life. This is called “social jetlag,” and working night shifts makes it worse.

Night shift workers must frequently remain awake and productive when their bodies beg for rest and sleep. This can cause workers to feel run down, anxious, and unwell. According to research, night shift work has been linked to an increased risk of menstruation problems. Employers must consider the issues associated with working the night shift.

An employer with a productive workforce needs to know about the risks of night work and do everything they can to help employees who work night shifts, so that night work has less of an effect on their mental health.

Employers can provide training, education, and therapy to help their employees deal with the emotional and psychological effects of working the night shift. Regarding scheduling, employers can be more flexible if they let night-shift workers switch to day shifts often and ensure employees have enough time off between shifts.

Workers on the night shift should also be aware of the risks to their health and take their own steps to reduce them, such as keeping a regular sleep schedule, making sure they have a dark, quiet place to sleep, getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, limiting their intake of caffeine and alcohol, using light therapy, and taking frequent breaks.

Because of their irregular work schedules, those who work the night shift may find it difficult to keep in touch with their loved ones and form meaningful relationships. However, night-shift employees can keep up with friends and family in several ways. Suggestions for working these hours are readily available.

Social media, instant messaging, and video conferencing technology can help those who work the night shift maintain social relationships with others despite physical distance and time zone differences.

It’s vital to remember that keeping in touch with friends and family takes work and sometimes compromise, but the benefits to your health are well worth it. Workers on the night shift should be aware of the difficulties that come with their schedules and try to find new ways to get to know their coworkers.

Night shift workers who want to keep their minds healthy should also get some exercise. Running, cycling, and swimming are all examples of aerobic exercises that have been shown to improve sleep quality and lower stress and anxiety levels.

When thinking “exercise,” it’s not all outdoors or requiring expensive equipment or gym memberships because many exercises can be done at home with inexpensive equipment. Not all of these are possible, but some activity must be included to counter the effect of shiftwork.

Yoga is a practice that incorporates breathing exercises, bodily postures, and meditation. It can help you relax and calm down, leading to a more restful night’s sleep.

Building muscle and increasing one’s general well-being are two of the many benefits of strength training methods like weightlifting and resistance band exercises. Stretching is a quick and easy way to help you feel better and calm down.

HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is a way to work out that involves short bursts of hard work followed by short breaks. Walking, hiking and swimming are all ways to exercise and enjoy the outdoors. And being outdoors (forest bathing) has its benefits even if you are walking.

Keep in mind that the optimum exercise plan for a night shift worker will vary from person to person based on factors including preferences, fitness level, and availability. Before beginning an exercise program, people who work the night shift should see a doctor. Workers on the night shift would do well to pay attention to their bodies and modify their workouts accordingly if they were feeling too exhausted.

Consequences for one’s mental health are real, and night work is a major contributor. Evidence suggests that night shift workers are likelier to have mental health issues like sadness and anxiety.

If a person who works the night shift is having trouble getting used to the new schedule or has mental or physical health problems, they should consider getting help from a professional.

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Pat Farrell PhD
Pat Farrell PhDhttps://medium.com/@drpatfarrell
I'm a licensed psychologist in NJ/FL and have been in the field for over 30 years serving in most areas of mental health, psychiatry research, consulting, teaching (post-grad), private practice, consultant to WebMD and writing self-help books. Currently, I am concentrating on writing articles and books.


Medika Editor: Mental Health

I'm a licensed psychologist in NJ/FL and have been in the field for over 30 years serving in most areas of mental health, psychiatry research, consulting, teaching (post-grad), private practice, consultant to WebMD and writing self-help books. Currently, I am concentrating on writing articles and books.

Patricia also acts in an editorial capacity for Medika's mental health articles, providing invaluable input on a wide range of mental health issues.

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