Effects of Working at Night
Tracey Loscar, a paramedic from Alaska, has been working for 16 hours. His shift lasts 24 hours. He works four of these shifts a week and has been working nights for 17 years.
“We joke that the first day you arrive ready to eat the world, and when the fourth day arrives, you are ready to burn it,” he says.
“I like the rhythm of the night. There are fewer people on the street, the calls are varied, the patterns are different, and there are fewer open businesses.” But the night also has its risks.
“If you work at night, act as if you are in another time zone”: Michael Young, Nobel Prize in Medicine 2017, responds to readers about the biological clock
“The night is more dangerous on several fronts,” he explains, “if your ability to react or observe is a little slower, the risks increase when you are working. It is overwhelming.”
According to a study by Princeton University in the United States, there are few official statistics, between 7% and 15% of the workforce in industrialized countries participates in some form of night work.
The World Health Organization considers night shifts a possible cause of cancer because they disrupt circadian rhythms.
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But how did Night Shifts Come About?
Since the production of the first commercial Thomas Edison lamps, we could invade the night at low cost, and sleep was the first victim,” explains Russell Foster, sleep expert and professor at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.
The critical problem is that we have this internal biological clock that is programmed based on the external world due to exposure to the light / dark cycle .”
Night workers remain exposed to low levels of light during their shift, the researcher explains. Still, when they encounter bright natural light upon returning home, the internal clock adjusts to the regular light / dark pattern that governs life. Day workers.
So they have to constantly ignore this kind of biological impulse in their clock that tells them they should be sleeping.
And it doesn’t matter if you’re regularly working at night, he adds, unless you can completely hide from the light once you’re complete working and daylight shows through.
But what Physical Effects do Night Shifts have on your body?
Foster points out that ignoring the biological clock triggers the “stress axis, ” which is how your body reacts in a situation called fight or flight.
Are Night Shifts Slowly Killing Me?
“We are injecting glucose into the circulation, increasing blood pressure, positioning ourselves on alert to deal with a potential threat, and that’s not the situation. We’re just working,” argues Foster.
The scientist warns that sustained stress levels can lead to cardiovascular disease or metabolic abnormalities such as type 2 diabetes. Stress canister also suppresses the immune system, leading to high levels of colorectal and breast cancer.
Those are the long-term effects, but of course, lack of sleep affects us in the short term as well.
The most noticeable effects are feeling tired, misunderstanding information, not understanding the signs of non-verbal behaviour from others, and losing empathy.
“We’re not going to lock the 24/7 work genius back in his bottle,” says Foster. But he cautions that companies whose employees work night shifts should prepare for future lawsuits if they don’t show they are taking all possible steps to mitigate some of the problems associated with night work.
In addition to implementing more regular health check-ups for workers, he points out. They should make sure to offer them nutritious food (such as fruits, for example) during their shifts to avoid the risks of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.Anyone who has worked nights knows that healthy food is not easy to come by.
Research suggests that carbohydrate consumption can go up 35% to 40% after just four to five days of restricted sleep due to increased levels of a hormone called ghrelin.This hormone makes us feel hungry and encourages us to eat foods with sugar and carbohydrates.
How to work through the night and survive the next day”Ultimately, it is not good for obesity or conditions like type 2 diabetes,” says Foster.
Lack of sleep has a health cost and an economical cost, says Marco Hafner, an economist at the Rand Europe research institute.
“In the UK, we find that lack of sleep costs the economy about $ 54 billion a year,” he says, “this represents about 1.8% of UK GDP. It is a mix of lost productivity and losses. effects of mortality “.Are governments paying attention to this problem in terms of their public policies?
According to Hafner, it is still very early, but “we know that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (in the US) has analyzed the problem and determined that insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic.”There is increasing awareness that lack of sleep is a public health problem,” he adds.
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Why does it, then? If there is so much evidence about the health risks of night shifts, why put yourself at risk?Many people have no other choice, and paramedic Loscar points out that doing so has its benefits.
“The schedules we have now work quite well for my family… I have two weeks off a month. I work a long week, but then I have seven consecutive days off. And that’s seven days to spend with my children and make plans.”
“I knew what I was getting hooked on. I know my sleeping pattern well, I know my physical activity and what to eat well. And I cancel things if I need to recover to make sure. I try to mitigate (the negative effects) as much as I can.”For Oscar, night work suits a particular personality type.
“I would say that the person who prefers or only works night shifts is someone who is. By nature, a bit more introverted. You expose yourself less to the public. So you tend to find that people who prefer to work at night are people who like that leave her alone doing their job. ”
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