The U.S. has become a country requiring workers, 24×7. We can shop for groceries at 2:00 a.m., we can speak with financial institutions about our accounts any time of the day or night, we can grab a middle of the night meal if we like – truthfully today, there isn’t much we cannot do, regardless of the time of day. If you are a night shift worker, continue reading to learn more about the science behind your sleep habits.
By working during the night, you are going against your body’s natural biological clock. Our bodies are designed to sleep after the sun goes down, and awaken in the morning – not vice versa. Many shift workers suffer from a lack of restful sleep leading to ongoing lethargy, a decrease in mental acuity, and potential health problems.
The Dangers Of The Night Shift
If you are working the night shift, chances are, you are not getting enough sleep. Because you are going against your internal biological clock, you are putting yourself at risk for developing serious injuries and chronic conditions. Let’s examine some of the potential side effects of working the night shift.
- Lower serotonin levels
- Lower leptin levels
- Greater risk for obesity due to higher levels of hormone ghrelin
- Greater risk for Type II Diabetes
- Double the risk for workplace injury
- Possible increased risk for breast cancer
- Impaired cognitive function
Shift Work Disorder – Do You Have It?
There is an actual classification and diagnosis for shift workers that have sleep disorders– “Shift Work Disorder”. Researchers believe this disorder to be caused by the disruption of the body’s natural circadian rhythms, and environmental stimuli.
Symptoms include excessive sleepiness, insomnia, restlessness, and more. If you are experiencing consistent disruptions in your sleep patterns, consider purchasing an activity tracker with sleep functions. This technology can help you track when you are getting your most restful periods of sleep, allowing you to adjust your routine as necessary.
Tips For Better Sleep
All hope is not lost; there are ways that night shift workers can get restful sleep.
- Regulate your schedule – try to avoid rotating shifts, and keep your schedule throughout the week. While it may be tempting to keep “regular” hours on your days off, this only increases the difficulty during your work week.
- Limit caffeine consumption, and don’t drink it less than 8 hours before you go to bed. It is fine to have a cup of coffee or tea when you first awaken, but avoid drinking caffeinated beverages throughout the day.
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. While it may be tempting to eat a large meal just prior to retiring, it is best to eat at least 4 hours prior to bed. This gives your body a chance to digest the foods, helping to ensure a good night’s sleep.
- Exercise regularly.
- Avoid bright lights once you return home, even if it is in the middle of the day. Close drapes and blinds, and lower light levels to help your body transition to sleep. Soothing music, and a relaxing routine can help you combat poor sleep.
- Put your phone on “do not disturb” when you finally go to bed.
- Try natural health supplements including Melatonin, magnesium, lavender, valerian, l-theanine and other herbal combinations to help you get to sleep. Sipping warm chamomile tea can help relax your mind and body.
- Invest in a good comfortable mattress, and keep the temperature of your room comfortable.