Whether you do so often or occasionally, working night shifts can certainly impact the way that you sleep. But the impact it can have on your health goes way beyond your sleep schedule. Working night hours have been tied to both mental and physical side effects. Of course, experts say there are ways to manage these potential side effects.
Whether you work night shifts exclusively or only every so often, here's what you need to know about how working at night can potentially impact your health.
"They call it 'shift-work sleep disorder,' so basically anytime someone is having symptoms of insomnia or symptoms of excessive sleepiness that happen in relation to them working at night or having these weird, off-work schedules," said Dr Cedrina L. Calder, MD, a preventive medicine physician.
"So [it] would just be just a normal sleep disorder but it would be related to the type of work that they're doing."
Doing your best to get the rest you need, minimizing light during the day when you need to be sleeping, and generally taking care of yourself can help, said Dr Rick Pescatore, DO, FAAEM, an emergency medicine physician and the director of clinical research at Crozer-Keystone Health System.
If you sometimes work at night, you may likely end up eating meals at times that aren't considered the norm or times your body isn't used to. You could also be eating a different amount than usual or perhaps you might be eating a bit less healthily than you otherwise would. Because of this, you could end up dealing with constipation, weight gain, indigestion, and more, said Calder.
If you work at night and all of your friends and family members work (or are awake) during the day, it can make you feel a bit more isolated than you otherwise would feel, which may not be good for your mental health. Calder said that being left out from those social activities in which you'd otherwise partake can potentially lead to depression and irritability.
Blood pressure's another thing that could potentially be affected by your late-night work. According to Pescatore, researchers have previously found a connection between hypertension (otherwise known as high blood pressure) and night shift work.
The Center for Disease Control has found links between working night and/or long hours and menstrual disorders, pre-term birth, and miscarriage. That being said, more research may be needed to solidify this connection.
"Another physical problem that can occur are metabolic disorders which would be things like obesity, changes in your fat in your blood like triglycerides, as well as even insulin resistance which could, later on, lead to diabetes," Calder told INSIDER.
In addition to staying active and eating a healthy diet, both Calder and Pescatore said that, when possible, continuing to work at night for a period of time instead of swinging back and forth between day shifts and night shifts can actually be helpful because it allows your body to adjust a bit more.
It's not just your physical health that can be impacted by nighttime work, your mental health can be affected as well.
"Your body is releasing different hormones and chemicals according to this 24-hour cycle," Calder said. "So when you're awake during a period of time when your body is supposed to be asleep, you may not be releasing the right or the normal amount of chemicals at that time."
He said it can impact your mood, make you irritable, or cause you to experience symptoms of depression or anxiety.
"Plus, the fact that you're working at night when normally you would be sleeping, that can make things more stressful on you in general and that stress can cause the same types of things: anxiety, depression, possibly irritability," he added.
If you're experiencing any of these feelings - no matter when you work - talking to your doctor or a mental health professional can help.
Injuries and accidents are other issues that can come along with night shift work and Pescatore said that they're really not talked about enough.
"We know that people are at increased risk of injury from working night shifts," Pescatore added. "Whether they're transporting themselves to and from, whether they're working a night shift, or the next day they're in a fog after the night shift. So it's not good."
Cardiovascular disease and heart issues are another potential way that your shift work could affect your health. Research has found that working nights can actually increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, Pescatore told INSIDER.
Increased risk of stroke is another potential issue that can come along with working at night, Pescatore said.
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