The professional world today is a field of cut throat competition. An area where people are pushing their limits more and more up to the point of their robotification.The amount of work that they are supposed to do demands from them hours more than the twenty-four given to us by the creator. This has led to the evolvement of the new work culture of shift working. Be it a police officer, medical staff, pilot, professional driver or even the new generation of developers who spend their nights writing codes, barely sleeping.
Shift work is any work which is irregular in manner or time. That which is undertaken beyond the supposed steady work hours of 6 to 6 or 9 to 5.
Yes, it sure is beneficial for the professional world. For some, it is a means of coming closer to their ambitions while for some it is a means of taking care of their necessities. Whatever the case might be shift work takes a serious toll on the health of an individual leading to growing unrest in the health sector against this practice.
The major implications it can have can be listed as-
Change in circadian rhythm and sleep deprivation : There is a biological clock fit inside our body which guides us when to sleep when to wake up and even when to eat. When this gets disturbed due to frequent change in the regular routine, the systems in our body go haywire. Exposure to light at dark hours( eg: night) or disturbed routine messes with our inbuilt clock and makes it difficult for us to take proper sleep. Sleeping for a few hours now and then is not an alternative to long hours of undisturbed night sleep.
Increased risk of metabolic disorders and cardiovascular diseases:Besides short terms ill effects like stomach upset, nausea, diarrhea ,constipation or heartburn that shift work causes, this culture may also lead to long-term effects like peptic ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome or diabetes due to insulin insensitivity and obesity. Cardiovascular effects like high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels can also be linked to the same culture which has its manifestations as heart attack and stroke.
Obesity : A faulty habit of poor diet and lack of time for exercise might lead to the ever growing syndrome of obesity. In obese individuals, there is a dearth of the hormone leptin also known as the satiety hormone which is secreted by the adipose tissue. Leptin secretion is normally increased during the night which suppresses hunger at late hours ,the failure of which leads to binge eating disorders .
Depression and family problems: There is increased the likelihood of shift workers going into depression because of isolation and ending up in family disintegrations due to insufficient time is given to the family.
Infertility : There is evidence of menstrual abnormalities and low birth weight babies being born to women working in shift contributing to the declining fertility in the population
Cancer : Shift work has also been associated with being a carcinogen.
Even if we have no say in changing our routine, we can ameliorate these adverse effects by following these simple steps:
- Set a fixed night shift rather than a rotating one.
- Try to sleep for a longer duration at a stretch and try to avoid light into your eyes while sleeping by using eye masks or covers. You can also try out methods to block the undue noise which might disturb sleep.
- Try to avoid the intake of alcoholic beverages, tea or coffee a few hours before sleeping.
- Avoid going to bed empty stomach. It hampers sleep.
- Soft soothing music or a warm bath sometimes helps in getting a sound sleep.
- Avoid using a cell phone or laptops while trying to sleep.
- Eat a healthy diet rich in protein and food which keeps your stomach fuller for a longer duration of time.
- Try to eat at regular time and interval each day.
- Eat dairy products and sweets few hours before for a quality sleep.
- Take short breaks in between your work schedule and walk around.
- Try to exercise daily.
- Try taking a day off to spend with your family and for mood alleviation.
Note: Consult a doctor in case you are unable to manage the health issues on your own.
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Written by Dr. Saima masood