Human beings are biologically prepared to live during the day and rest at night. We are daytime animals. The added wear and tear of working at night , either continuously or in rotating shifts, ends up taking its toll and can favor the appearance of different alterations, both physical and mental.
How it affects working at night
The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that a person who works a night shift will suffer a premature aging of five years for every 15 that he works at night, although the effects of this alteration will probably not be appreciated until 5-years from now. 10 years of working nights .
In general terms, people are more alert and perform better between 8:00 and 18:00. After these hours, especially if you work more than eight hours, you are more likely to make mistakes, have accidents, and be less productive at work.
The work schedule not only affects the quantity and quality of sleep, but also has repercussions on nutrition. To maintain good health it is necessary to eat a balanced diet.with a supply of essential nutrients for the proper functioning of the body. Likewise, it is necessary that the food intake is divided into several meals, preferably hot. People who work nights frequently eat cold, fast foods that do not provide adequate nutrients. Waking up at noon, they probably don’t have the appetite to eat a hot dish and can’t eat it during their night shift. These dietary changes can favor the appearance of serious diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure or increased cholesterol levels.
what happens at night
At night, when the body is tired and preparing to sleep, it secretes melatonin , which is a hormone that helps us relax and fall asleep. After rest, the adrenal glands secrete cortisol, a hormone that keeps us awake, active, alert and with an alert mind. The secretion of these hormones follows what is called the circadian rhythm, which regulates the production of hormones at different doses depending on the needs of the sleep-wake cycle. When working at nightThe body produces relaxing hormones during working hours and stimulating hormones during the day, when you try to sleep, which can seriously affect both the ability to work and concentration, as well as the quality and quantity of sleep. It is true that many of the people who work nights, especially if they always work nights, adapt to some degree to these changes, but never in the same way.
Shift changes, worse than working at night
Likewise, constant changes of shifts are worse for health, because in this way the body and hormonal production never adapt to the different needs of wakefulness and sleep than usual, which causes the person’s health to suffer further.
Among people who work the night shift, mood swings are also more frequent than in the general population, not only because of the physical and hormonal changes that night shifts cause, but also because of the difficulty in socializing that night shifts cause. it entails, since when most people are free to socialize these people have to go to work at night .
It is very common for relationships to suffer, especially if the night shift is not shared, as well as the relationship with the children. In the same way, some daytime activities during the weekend of the children are limited or restricted by the need for rest of those who work the night shift.
It is also common for the person working at night to end up suffering from a burnout syndrome or professional exhaustion in such a way that they feel exhausted both physically and mentally, with excessive fatigue, a fickle state of mind, an increase in levels anxiety, feel more irritable and may develop depression. Fatigue does not improve despite rest, there is less ability to concentrate, muscle and joint pain, headaches, unrefreshing sleep and general malaise. Many of these people, on occasion, must use medication to stabilize their mood and achieve sleep.
How to manage these schedules as best as possible
Despite everything, in our society there are professions that need to be carried out partly at night (health professionals, firefighters, security forces, pilots and drivers of night services, etc.). So, if you have to work at night, a series of measures can be taken to prevent the impact of this alteration of the natural cycle of sleep and wakefulness from being excessive:
- Take care of eating habits, ensuring a balanced and adequate supply of nutrients and ensuring that three intakes are given a day, preferably hot food and not pre-cooked or cold meals.
- Establish a minimum of between six and eight hours of rest after the work shift, following the same routines that would be performed before going to bed at night.
- Adapt the room where you sleep to ensure rest, avoiding the entry of light, excess heat or noise from outside.
- Getting moderate, age-appropriate exercise before going to work to boost energy levels during night work hours.
- Take care of family and social relationships despite changes in schedules and shifts so that these spheres do not suffer from the night shift.
- Stimulants such as tea or coffee can be taken, but only until the middle of the night, so that their effect does not prevent sleep once the work shift is over.
- Never take hypnotic drugs to fall asleep unless the doctor has prescribed them and, if possible, only occasionally or for short periods of time, until the body adapts to the change in the sleep-wake cycle.
If you have to work at night and notice that your body suffers a lot, do not take it lightly and contact your regular doctor.
With the MAPFRE Salud Insurance you can consult with a team of professionals on all health-related questions.
What you should know…
- It is estimated that a person who works a night shift will experience a premature aging of five years for every 15 that they work at night.
- But constant shift changes are worse for health, because in this way the body and hormonal production never get to adapt to the different needs of waking and sleeping than usual.
- Taking care of your diet, exercising, establishing minimum hours of rest… are some key guidelines to best cope with night or shift work.