Reasons to Quit Night Shift Work
Are you currently working night shifts? Do you sail through them with ease or do you find that they are having a detrimental impact on your physical and mental health? As therapists, we know that some of our clients really struggle with working nights. Here are some reasons to quit night shift working or to find coping mechanisms to help you through your time working the graveyard shift.
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Night Shift Health Problems
In 2019 The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) agreed that working night shifts was probably carcinogenic to humans. In other words, it is likely to increase your risk of cancer. Night work disrupts the circadian rhythms and this is likely to have an impact on your health.
As reasons to quit the night shift working go this is a biggie! Yet this is only the start of the problems that shift work can cause to your physical health. Night workers experience a higher risk of heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, obesity and issues with the metabolism. Yes, there may be some steps you can take to mitigate this detrimental impact but overall if you are thinking about a career where night working is a big portion of your life factor in how harmful it can be to your health.
Shift Work and Mental Health
More reasons to quit night shift working include mental health problems. Were you aware that people working nights are likely to experience higher levels of anxiety, depression and stress?
Once again that circadian rhythm disruption is one of the biggest causes as you try and live your life out of step with those around you and your bodies natural mechanism for working.
One of the biggest problems that night workers experience is problems with their sleep. Typically they find that they are getting significantly less than they need which causes tiredness, depression and anxiety. Plus people who work nights are more likely to have substance abuse issues.
Psychological Effects of Working Night Shifts
So let’s talk about the psychological effects of working regular night shifts in more detail. When you work nights the number one disruption is to your sleep. We’ve mentioned circadian rhythms which is one part of the problem. As humans, we are designed to sleep at night time and be awake during the day. Night working completely flips this on its head and for some people that is incredibly difficult to deal with and knocks their sleep patterns.
But this is only the start of the problem with sleeping. Many shift workers are on rolling shift patterns which give little consistency to their life. They may start working days move to afternoons and evenings and then on to nights. Their body clocks are constantly in a disorientated state causing tiredness and a jet-lagged feeling.
To cap it call you are trying to sleep during the day time when there is more noise around and light. This obviously increases the problems with sleeping. Add to that the temptation to get less sleep to interact with those around you and you now have lots of reasons for disrupted or poor quality sleep.
Night Shift Depression
Mental health statistics show great reasons to quit night shift working. In particular night workers are 33% more likely to have depression. This is a big number showing how much of an impact night shift working can have.
So why is it more likely that you are going to suffer from depression if you work nights? Well, there are a number of reasons. Firstly if you see less sunlight that is going to have an impact on your moods. If you have heard of SAD syndrome that occurs in winter then this is something similar. Your body is not getting enough light to produce vitamins such as vitamin d and your serotonin levels are reduced.
Secondly, as we have discussed you are likely to be more tired especially if you haven’t built a proper sleep routine. Trying to do things during the day whilst you should be sleeping leads to increased tiredness and also feelings of not being able to manage well.
Finally, we have to look at the problems shift work has on social interaction with our families and friends. If you are sleeping whilst everyone else is out socialising you are going to feel as if you are missing out or leading a separate life. This can have a detrimental impact on your relationships and leave you feeling isolated and cut off. Unless you like this significant alone time this is going to be a factor in your general mood.
As therapists, we are well aware that when people experience negative feelings they used substances such as alcohol or drugs to make them feel better pushing them into a further downward spiral.
Night Shift and Eating Schedules
Finally the last of our many reasons to quit the night shift and that is eating. If you are working night hours it means that your normal eating patterns and routines no longer exist. This means you have to try and find a new way of eating. The only problem is that at night shops and canteens are closed meaning that you have to try and either bring your food with you, get it from a greasy takeaway or buy it from vending machines.
Night shift workers are notorious for making poor food choices for convenience at night. This is often the result of poor planning and lack of access to healthy food. When these factors are combined the weight starts to pile on. If you are tired as well then you may also eat to increase your energy levels. The only problem is that you are more likely to eat sweet sugary foods leading to more weight gain.
The night shift also means that you are less likely to do any exercise unless you build it strictly into your routine. Most gyms are closed in the evening and when you have finished your shift you are probably going to want to go straight to bed. Finding a way to get moving is important to try and counteract the issue with weight gain from working nights.
How to Cope With Night Shifts
So we have given you plenty of reasons to quit night shift working but what if that isn’t an option for you? Well, we have a plan of action that we give to our clients to help them try and work in ways that will protect their physical and mental health. Here is what we suggest to help you stay well and happy.
Sleep Routines for Night Working
Being strict with your routines is going to be essential when you are working late in the evening. Firstly think about your sleep and make sure that you get the right amount of sleep every night. An average adult needs somewhere between 7 and 9 hours sleep a night so timetable that into your day.
That means no getting up during the day to do tasks when you are incredibly tired. No trying to get away with a few hours less. Get home from your night shift and have a short period of wind downtime and then head to bed. Set your alarm for 7 to 9 hours later.
To help you sleep well purchase some basic products to help you get a good nights rest. These should include:
Blue light blocking glasses which are great at helping you to get a better nights sleep. Weart them in the hours before you go to bed and they are shown to increase the quantity and quality of your sleep. Read our guide to blue light blocking glasses and the way they naturally help your sleep.
Furnished Blackout Blinds to help stop light getting into the bedroom. Too much daylight can disrupt your sleep pattern and stop you from falling asleep. Blackout blinds are a great way to help simulate night time.
A Gritin Sleep Mask if you still find too much light is getting into the room. This blocks out light and is adjustable to help you sleep. Plus it comes with earplugs to help block out any day time noise.
If you find that noise is really an issue the upgrade from earplugs and purchase the Avantek White Noise Machine which is a perfect tool for tuning out sounds which may be disturbing your sleep. This has 6 different types of white noise, 6 different fan sounds as well as natural sounds such as the wind, rain or even ocean waves.
Our self-hypnosis for sleep download is also a great tool for teaching the mind to switch off and relax.
Food Planning and Exercise Routines
As well as arranging a good sleep routine also make sure that you put in place good exercise routines as well as food planning and preparation. Before each set of shifts create a food plan of what you are intending to eat during your working days. Try and buy and prepare foods that are healthy and nutritious to stop you from loading up on junk food. Buy a tiered Bento Box or lunch box so that you can bring this food into work with you.
In addition to arranging a healthier eating regime also try and create an exercise schedule to help you keep fit. Where possible try and get out into the open air and sunshine to help you catch up on the missing daylight. Remember you don’t need to be running marathons but you should find ways of moving your body to keep you healthy.
Working shifts means it can be difficult to get the natural daylight you need to keep you healthy. This is especially the case in winter when you may be working in the dark and sleeping in the part of the day which has any daylight. To counteract this think about purchasing a SAD lamp to balance your moods. These are portable so they can be used in the workplace or at home.
Lack of sunlight also means a lack of Vitamin D which is essential for healthy bones, joints and muscles. Studies have also shown that low levels of this vitamin can cause depression. It makes sense to take a supplement if you are not getting enough sunlight to top up your levels.
Social interaction is incredibly important and sometimes working nights makes you feel as if you are living in a different bubble from everyone else. Try and make sure that your schedule allows you to catch up with friends and family on your days off. Where possible book holidays for important parties, weddings or get-togethers to stop you feel as if you are missing out. Arranging social activity together with our other advice should go a long way to helping you make sure your wellbeing doesn’t suffer.
Therapy Help for Night Shift Workers
There are plenty of reasons to quit the night shift but with our tips and strategies, you should be able to find it is easier to cope with unusual working patterns. If you find that our product recommendations and suggestions are not enough to help then we are available for online sessions.
Therapy can help with your moods, sleep and mental health so remember there is always a place to go if you need some extra help. Simply fill out the form below to arrange a discovery call regarding our sessions.
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