Top 7 Effects Of Shift Work On Health & How To Prevent Them?

Updated: 09/12/2019

According to a study, about 15 million people in the United States work full on an evening shift, night shift, and rotating shifts[1]. Besides, lots of adults in the United States work fifty or more hours a week. Shift workers are doctors and nurses, road and bridge construction workers, pilots, police officers and firefighters, food service workers, commercial drivers, and customer service representatives. Whatever the reason, it may be not good for your health if you are working long hours or doing shift work. For more information related to the effects of shift work on health, continue reading this post to know more.

I. Effects Of Shift Work

Listed below are the top effects of shift work on your health.

1. Increase The Risk Of Diabetes

It will raise the diabetes risk if you work night shifts. This mainly occurs because of the impact of shift work on insulin activity. Apart from that, it may result in obesity, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and high blood pressure. These troubles are serious risk factors that cause heart attacks and strokes and diabetes. According to a 2011 study published in PLOS Medicine, a night shift work is related to a modestly increased chance of type developing type 2 diabetes in females[2]. Besides, shift work, especially night shifts, may be challenging for individuals with diabetes because it may result in potential difficulties associated with mealtimes and medication schedules.

2. Hamper Sleep

Working for long hours or in shifts may affect your sleep. People who often work in the evening or night shift get fewer than 6 hours of sleep per day. Besides, shift workers are more prone to have lower serotonin levels than non-shift workers, thus impacting sleep. According to a 2009 study, shift work including the night may have negative impacts on sleep, performance, sleepiness, and accident risk.

3. Hamper Heart Health

It is not good for your heart if you work late into the night. Your body produces the hormone cortisol that is hard on the heart if you’re under stress at work.  Consequently, it may increase your risk of strokes and coronary artery disease. Along with that, working the night shift raises your chance of heart-related issues. A study published in the British Medical Journal in 2012 showed that shift work was related to an increased chance of major vascular issues, such as strokes and heart attacks[3].

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4. Cause Obesity

Sleeping against the natural biological clock of your body or sleeping too little may result in obesity. According to a study published in Science Translational Medicine in 2012, too little sleep may cause an increased risk of obesity and diabetes[4]. As per another study, cumulative night shift work indicated significant associations with waist circumference, body mass index (BMI), waist-to-height ratio, and hip circumference[5].

5. Lead To Gastrointestinal Issues

Shift work is bad for your gastrointestinal health. It may result in or worsen symptoms of diarrhea, nausea, constipation and a few functional bowel diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Researchers show that people doing shift work, particularly rotating shift work are at a high risk of developing abdominal pain and IBS[6]. According to a 2010 review, shift workers have an increased risk of peptic ulcer disease and gastrointestinal symptoms. Avoiding night-shift work should be considered for preventing and managing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

6. Make You Depressed

Working in shift may affect your mental health. Factors including stress, pressure, and sleep disturbance all contribute to mood disorders such as depression. Besides, sleep disturbance related to shift work is a vital risk factor for bipolar disorder, suicidality, and depression. According to a 1997 study published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, depression is higher among shift workers compared to the non-shift workers[7]. Besides, a 2008 study indicated that shift work could raise the risk of aggravating or developing mood disorders and suicide, at least in vulnerable people[8].

7. Problems With Fertility And Pregnancy

Shift work may affect the reproductive system of a woman. Also, shift work seems to be linked to an increased chance of complications during delivery, fertility problems, endometriosis, premature & low-weight babies, painful periods, and irregular periods.

II. How To Protect Shift Workers' Health?

The UCLA Sleep Disorders Center provides for people working rotating shifts with some suggestions to try:

  • Allow additional time to adjust to a new work schedule, without decreasing time for sleeping.
  • On the last several days of an evening shift, delay sleeping and getting up by one or two hours. This tip will make it easier to adapt to a new shift at work.
  • Try staying the same sleep schedule daily of the week or even on days off. This helps to align your body clock with the shift work schedule.
  • Wearing dark glasses may help workers stay away from daylight and other light cues after they finish a night shift.
  • Because lots of the risks of shift work are associated with metabolic syndrome and obesity, step up your efforts to inhibit them. Keeping a healthy weight, exercising regularly and eating well could make a difference.

Hope that this article will help you a lot. For more informative articles, please go to our main News & Facts page. Also, feel free to share with us if you know any of the other effects of shift work on health. All of the contents provided in this article are for informational and educational purposes. We recommend you consult a healthcare professional to determine which method is appropriate for you.

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