The Night Shift Is Killing Me

The Night Shift Is Killing Me

Last update: 18 August, 2017

The great Roman poet Ovid once said that the night is sadder than the day. It seems like he wasn’t wrong. This is even more true for the many people who work the night shift – their job might actually be killing them.

At least according to the results of a study from the University of Surrey released in collaboration with other institutions. Working the night shift has a direct effect on quality of life. It’s interesting how the hours of the night that we associate with love and romanticism can in reality be quite harmful. Although of course, working isn’t the same as being with your partner, is it?

“The night is beautiful, naked. It has no limits or barriers.”

-José Hierro-

The problems with working the night shift

There are already many studies that show that working the night shift is very unhealthy. The most recent one has to do with nurses in South Korea. Before that, there was one on retired Chinese employees who formerly worked in the automotive industry in shifts, and before that it was French workers.

woman falling asleep working

The main problem seems to come from the lack of sleep or change in sleep schedule. Society revolves around day and light, and so people who work at night have to completely adapt their lives to a schedule that is counter to that. If not, they develop exhaustion and fatigue that they can rarely recover from.

In all the studies done on the subject, data show that this directly affects the person’s health. Not only that, they also found signs a bunch of other negative effects. For example:

  • Among the South Korean nurses, the ones who worked more at night showed alarming rates of obesity.
  • Of the retired Chinese employees, they found high rates of diabetes and extremely high blood pressure.
  • The French workers demonstrated statistically significant cognitive deterioration. In fact, their results indicated that their cognitive decline was equivalent to what it would be if they had aged 5 or 10 years.

Working overnight affects sleep

Like we said, this problem directly affects sleep patterns. When you work the night shift but don’t completely adapt to the schedule, your biological rhythms get completely out of sync.

The internal mechanisms responsible for the sleep-wake cycle shift out of balance, causing serious issues in the body. For example, the person eats when they’re not ready and tries to sleep even when they don’t feel tired.

tired man

In the end, all of this imbalance leads to a troubling lack of sleep. Overnight workers tend not to sleep enough, which is basically the big problem. Their bodies are more tired.

There are other factors that also affect overnight workers, such as nutrition. Not only do they eat at poor times, but they also have more difficulty finding healthy food to eat. Many of them get fast food, which deteriorates their cognitive and physical capacities even faster.

What should you do if you have to work the night shift?

There’s no easy solution for overnight workers. Like we said already, the ideal thing to do would be to completely adapt your life to your work schedule. But then the weekends are a problem, since during that free time it’s much harder to stick to the nocturnal schedule. This makes the body crazy over the lack of consistency in its biological rhythm.

Also, many people work various different shifts. Sometimes they work during the day, and sometimes they work at night. This is terribly harmful for the body because it can never adapt to one schedule in particular. According to experts, one of the few groups of workers that has adapted well to the nighttime schedule is oil rig workers. Because they don’t have weekends free and they sleep in rooms without windows, they don’t have the same problem as people who live in cities and towns do.

“Well, if you find a note tonight that sounds good, play the same damn note every night!” 

-Count Basie-

Obviously people need to work in order to live. If somebody has to work different shifts, they adapt to it. But it’s also pretty obvious that this is physically and cognitively harmful. And there’s no simple solution to the problem, but at least we’ve already taken the first step by becoming aware of the negative effects. The next step would be to do everything possible to maintain a consistent schedule and get a minimum amount of rest every 24 hours.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.