How to work night shift and stay healthy
Shift work is getting increasingly ordinary, despite its harmful consequences for health, performance, and safety. Americans have been found to be more likely to work night shifts, with 26.6% of the population engaging in
non-traditional work schedules, particularly within protective services (police, fire, correction services) (24,8% of shift workers), followed by healthcare providers (10.9%)
Short-term consequences of night shift work include decreased concentration and alertness as well as increased sleep problems during the day.
Long-term consequences of night shift work include increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, and depression.
Given the health risks associated with shift work, organizations must do everything in their power to help shift workers maintain their health. Our research on how to work night shift and stay healthy suggests focusing on the following three areas to solve the problem of how to work night shift and stay healthy:
Light: The circadian disruption caused by shift work can be mitigated by applying a blue light device at different times during the day.
Nutrition: Obesity is a real risk associated with working night shifts. Changes in diet, including the timing of meals and the foods taken, can significantly improve the health and wellbeing of shift workers.
Sleep: Short power naps during a night shift have been scientifically proven to increase alertness and cognitive performance. Likewise, a short nap before driving home after a night shift can significantly decrease the risk of road accidents. Lastly, short rest has been found effective in improving mental states by increasing feelings of relaxation, and relieving stress even after a disrupted night’s sleep.