Shift work is becoming commonplace in today’s increasingly globalized world. Call centers for example, or 24 hour stores. Sometimes people work two jobs, and then they have to do shift work. Basically, anything other than Monday to Friday, or from 9-5, would be regarded as shift work. Naturally, all this puts your circadian rhythm out of whack, and therefore, your sleep cycle gets affected big time.
Sleep experts all agree that shift work is detrimental to your sleep health. Shift work is associated with human error and decreased productivity. Most companies that run on shift work have accepted that shift work doesn’t produce the best quality work. And all this is because the natural cycles are affected, resulting in disrupted bodily functions.
The circadian rhythm is responsible for the timing of the sleep-wake cycle. It controls this cycle by releasing and withholding certain hormones, chemicals, and neurotransmitters. If the sleep patterns are disturbed, lowered quality of sleep, disrupted hormone production, and fewer hours of sleep will result.
The symptoms of insomnia that typically appear include a reduced ability to concentrate on daytime tasks, irritability, depression, and lack of desire to interact with people. If you work in a call center and do shift work, even on 3 cups of coffee per day, the fatigue is very pronounced, and eventually this fatigue may translate to your physical cells, making you look worn out and older than your age.
It’s no wonder you have so many accidents, absenteeism, and high turnover rate with any kind of shift work, you name it. High blood pressure, vision problems, headaches, gastrointestinal problems and even sleep apnea are also commonly reported by shift workers.
But we’re now living in a bad economy, and probably more people are now doing two jobs, or have no choice but to do shift work in order to pay the bills. The medical fields, engineering, law enforcement, customer service centers, and transportation are just some of the jobs where you’ll be asked to do shift work, because the work is 24/7.
So if you can’t help but to do shift work?
There are a few mitigating measures to take. Make sure your sleeping area is really dark. Pull down the blinders and switch of all the lights. Why? Well darkness releases melatonin, and melatonin does more than just help you sleep; it is a vital hormone involved in many other functions of the body.
Get as much sleep as possible – 8 hours or more. Because you’ll likely be sleeping during the day or at odd hours, try napping whenever possible. Try not to drink coffee or other caffeine drinks at least 4 hours before sleeping. Taking something like ginseng rather than coffee may help to prep you up during the night. Talk to your boss about allowing you nap breaks during working hours.