When 11pm comes around, many people are watching the nightly news and getting ready to get a good night’s sleep. But for some people, this is when they are just starting their eight or more hour work day. In this day and age, many businesses feel as though things have to be running around the clock in order to succeed. 2.1% of the workforce is on this vampire-like shift. But what about those people that are working the night shift? Are they really succeeding?
Many health hazards have come into light for those working overnight. Scientists feel that working the graveyard shift interrupts our body’s circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is almost like a biological clock on a 24 hour cycle that deals with our physiological processes. This also includes telling our body when its time to sleep and when it’s time to be awake. Having a balance to this is very important because when we are not following that schedule, we become very weak from lack of sleep and becoming weak makes us more vulnerable to diseases.
Diseases so traumatic such as cancer, recently the World Health Organization have found that the men and woman working overnight have shown higher rates of breast and prostate cancer.
Sleep deficiency is the greatest challenge that graveyard shift workers face. Many of them have families that they have to care for, so instead of getting off of work at 7am or 8am and going home to sleep, they are making breakfast and getting the kids off to school. Some people even have day jobs along with the night jobs to go to.
Ever notice how after working the nightshift, if you do go home and go to sleep, you normally sleep more than the allotted 8 hours or even though you are so tired, you can’t sleep because that sunlight blasting through your window is psychologically telling you that your not supposed to be sleeping? Research has indicated that day sleep is lighter and less restful than night sleep that would explain the reasoning of why you either can’t sleep or sleep longer. By sleeping longer, your body is trying to get the rest it needs and is not getting on a nightly basis.
Lack of sleep has been proven to contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, irritability, and depression. We all know the feeling we get when we don’t sleep. You start to feel really crabby, short-tempered, and even down right mean. Lack of sleep not only runs down your immune system, but increases the risk of your short-term memory to start giving you problems.
This is actually a problem I have run into myself. I’ve worked graveyard shift before and it has developed a sleep schedule where I do not go to bed until around 5am and get up around 1pm or 2pm. Because of this drastic ongoing change I sometimes find myself forgetting simple phrases or even a phone number that I’ve known off by heart. Even though they are just little occurrences, they can add up.
Some jobs that work you overnight can be really laid back, even boring; such as an overnight clerk at a gas station. Your sitting there all night, and get a handful of customers…what do you do to pass the time? Many people turn to eating to pass the time. This causes significant weight gain. When you’re working the night shift, you don’t get a chance to eat a regular meal or keep a diet that is nutritious. Most of the time you are too tired to think about food and just grab a bag of chips or call out for pizza. This pattern of effects can easily help you gain up to thirty pounds and also cause you to have digestive problems.
What about your family and friends? Remember them? Holiday’s are shortened, there is no Friday night out with your friends, that concert you wanted to go see is out because you have to work, and what about your husband or wife? When was the last time you talked to them? How about your children? Working graveyard shift puts extreme stress on your relationships with your family and friends. Even though you’re working nightshift, you still have other responsibilities that need to be done, especially if those responsibilities are to be fulfilled in the daytime, when your daytime is your nighttime, this can cause problems. Small responsibilities will seem like large ones, and you find yourself slacking and putting things off to the last moment, causing you to be more irritable.
The more that we have going on in our lives, the more pressure and stress we consume. Many people working night shifts find themselves turning to large amounts of coffee or energy drinks to keep them awake. Some even turn to stronger types of stimulants that turn into a habit. Not to mention to come down off of that feeling of being awake, or to just try to get some sleep, many turn to sleeping pills or alcohol to help them sleep, which again can become habit forming.
All of the above problems are things that I personally would like to avoid entering my life; therefore I avoid any type of overnight work. I feel that it is not something that should be mandatory for certain positions. However, if you are one of these unlucky people here are some ideas to help you cope with your stress.
Start a schedule for yourself. While you’re at work, if you feel the need to eat, stay away from the junk food. Grab an apple, some carrots, or even a small sandwich. Limit your caffeine intake to the first 4 hours of your shift. Interact with other people at your job; doing this will help both of you keep awake and alert. When you do get home and want to climb into a comfortable bed, make sure that you close all the windows and blinds. The less sunlight that comes into the room, the better. If you find yourself not able to fall asleep fast, you might want to schedule a comforting cup of green tea, or a warm bath and some soft music to help you relax.
As for your family and friends that miss you being around, try posting your schedule up so where your partner and children can see so that they can let you know about the things going on in their life so that you can plan ahead to be with them or spend time with them. Also you may want to plan an evening a week with your friends or family and make it a ritual. One thing you don’t want to do is use the weekend as a time to become a day person and spend two days out of the vampire-realm. This will just make Monday even more hellish to get back into the act. Keep your schedule consistent whether you are working or not.
Remember that you can always ask your doctor for some advice and since your employer is the one that put you on this horrible shift, you can always let them know of any issues as well.
In conclusion, it’s your life, and you have a lot of means available to get through this night shift and keep one foot out of the grave, but it’s up to you to do it! Good Luck and sweet dreams!