People like working night shift for various reasons. Mainly the boss is not around! But working night shift can take a toll on your body.
Some people working night shift develop shift work disorder. Shift work disorder is characterized by mood swings, depression, impaired social functioning, lower coping skills, insomnia and daytime sleepiness. The disorder is thought to be directly related to a misalignment of your biological clock and sleep deprivation.
There are different types of shift work: evenings, afternoon to night, over- night , swing shift, on-call, split shift and extended work hours. People starting work between 4:30 am. -7:00 a.m. can develop night shift sleep disorder. The most common shift that causes shift work sleep disorder is night shift or overnight shift work (also known as grave-yard shift) Grave yard shift might be more accurate that initially thought.
All types of shift work can lead to sleep disturbance. Whether or not you develop sleep problems may depend upon your genes because everyone is not equally prong to developing shift work sleep disorder. Researchers found that people with a mutation at CRY1 tolerate shift work better than people who do not have the mutation.
According to Dr. Gottlieb, director of the sleep Disorders Center at VA Boston Healthcare System, “Sleep patterns are influenced by genetic differences." This is why some people gravitate to working night shift while others must tow the line hoping to soon get a daytime job. Researchers have known for some time that some people are night people referred to as owls. People who hate night shift work are most likely “larks”. Larks are day people. People who wake up early and go to sleep before 11:00 p.m. demonstrate lark characteristics.
Shift work disorder is diagnosed by your medical history, work schedule and sleep history. Usually a sleep study is not necessary. But if a polysomnogram (sleep study) is completed, the study will document delayed sleep onset, fragmented sleep, poor sleep efficiency and decreased total sleep time.
Working night shift could adversely affect your health. People working night shift have a greater risk of cancer, diabetes, hypertension, mood problems, gastric reflux, substance abuse and ulcers. Some people adapt easily to working at night. Most people will benefit from the following tips for working night shift.
- Think of your day as your night. When you come home try to go to bed as soon as possible.
- Make sure the room is conducive of sleep: slightly cool, dark, noise free
- Practice good sleep hygiene. Limit behaviors associated with wakefulness such as bright light exposure, watching television or using your electronic devices right before going to bed.
- Don’t go to bed too hungry and don’t over eat
- Avoid foods that cause heartburn
- Do not drink green tea or take L-threonine. These will interfere with sleep.
- Be careful about the timing and amount of caffeine you drink at night. Caffeine has a half life of about 6-8 hours in most adults. Drinking two cups of coffee at 3 a.m. will leave you with one cup in your system at 9 a.m.
- Wear a black eye shield
- Remove your cell phone from your bedroom
- Remember only use the bedroom for sleep and sex.
With a little effort and lots of survival tips for night shift work, you can be successful.
Shift Work Disorder in International Classification of Sleep Disorders 3rd Edition. American Academy of Sleep Medicine.