Health Hazards of Shift Work

Millions of workers engage in shift work or work that requires them to show up at irregular hours or work the night shift. This number seems to be growing as shift work jobs are projected to increase during the next 5 to 10 years.  This means those who are now working full-time jobs may eventually have to engage in shift work to stay employed.

Shift workers are employed in a variety of industries, the most common of which include manufacturing and customer service. Workers are then paid in different ways, depending on many factors, such as their particular shift.  For example, some companies compensate shift workers differently by giving them paid time off.

Health Concerns of Shift Workers

Shift work isn’t always easy and it’s important to note some shift workers often suffer from various health concerns because of abnormal hours. In most cases, shift workers suffer from insomnia and have short sleep periods, compared to those who have normal sleep hours at night. Research also has shown nighttime shift workers suffer from higher stress levels. Some think this occurs because they often miss out on important events that happen in family life, such as birthday celebrations, graduations, and various social events with family and friends. Shift workers also have a higher risk for heart disease and strokes.

Studies have also shown that shift workers have a higher tendency to be depressed. Shift work can have a more negative impact on the sleep/wake cycle, can affect the efficiency of workers, and can impact how an employee gets along with his or her family. It can cause problems within the marriage and with the care of children and can even affect a person’s eating habits.

Long-Term Health Effects

Long-term effects of shift work can lead to to the following conditions:

  • peptic ulcer
  • chronic fatigue
  • colitis
  • fatigue
  • hypertension

Some may not know it, but there are specific negative effects on women who work night shifts, such as effects on their hormonal and reproductive systems.

How Shift Workers can Stay Healthy

There are several ways shift workers, regardless of their work hours, can stay healthy.  You should try exercising on a regular basis and eating healthy foods.  A balanced diet such as salads, soups, and whole grains will keep a person physically as well as mentally healthy. Sleep is also important to stay healthy. Since many shift workers sleep during the day, they need to keep the sunlight out of their homes by covering their windows with light-blocking window treatments and/or by wearing a sleep mask.   Shift workers can also try drinking coffee, tea, or cola in moderation.

Working on a shift is certainly not for everyone; however, for those who can tolerate the hours, make sure they get the exercise they need, and eat nutritious food, they will do well with this kind of work. Getting enough sleep is also important and doing what is necessary to stay alert on the job will help to keep you safe and healthy if you are a shift worker.