By: Donna Devita
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Night Work Dangers
Night workers are some of the most committed and hard-working employees in the country. Altering their entire lifestyle to perform their job duties while everyone else is asleep, these workers do what few others are capable of- but it comes at a cost.
Hidden Dangers of The Night Shift
The nocturnal workforce is growing in our country and at an alarming rate. As our economy continues to become more demanding, American workers are being forced to work longer and later hours to keep up. Over 2 million people in our country work the graveyard shift from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., according to an article published by Health Day. In addition to these dedicated workers, an average of 2.5 million workers are taking on rotating shifts, meaning they often switch back and forth between working at day and night. As more and more people opt to work through the night, health experts are finding a slew of negative consequences affecting the physical, emotional, and psychological health of these night owls.
Night Work Leads to Poor Health
Just because your body is used to working overnight, doesn’t mean it’s good for your health. While night workers are fighting themselves to stay awake, they are also forcing their bodies into an unnatural cycle that puts them at a higher risk for health hazards. The most dangerous of these conditions, listed in an article by Business Insider, include:
- Insomnia: Night workers often report having trouble sleeping when they get home from a shift. While everyone else is up and starting their day, night workers still have to find time to sleep and complete daily tasks such as shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc. For some night workers, it’s easier to forgo sleep altogether than to retrain the body on a different sleep schedule. Others stress so much about getting to sleep before their next night shift, they end up keeping themselves up instead.
- Weight Gain: The natural circadian rhythm of our bodies is meant to eat during the day and sleep during the night. Altering this can cause the body to store extra weight which puts workers at risk for a number of other health conditions according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Night workers also suffer from significantly more stomach issues than people who work day shifts, including ulcers, constipation, and indigestion.
- Social Isolation: Night workers can easily feel isolated from their family and friends who work day shifts, bearing negatively on an individual’s mental health. Feeling left out-and-out of the loop constantly can also lead night works to become more susceptible to depression.
- Blood Pressure: Researchers have found a connection between the presence of high blood pressure and night shift workers. As defined by the Mayo Clinic, high blood pressure can lead to other serious health conditions including strokes, weakening of the brain’s blood vessels, blood clots, and dementia.
- Women’s Issues: Women who work overnight have been found to have more issues with menstrual cycles, pre-term labors, and higher rates of miscarriages than women who work during the day.
- Depression and Anxiety: Workers who stay awake all night may not be releasing the right type of hormones and chemicals to stabilize their mental health, resulting in higher rates of depression and anxiety.
- Alcohol and Drug Use: Whether it’s to help them stay awake or to cope with the number of other stressors that can come with the night shift, night workers are far more likely to use and abuse alcohol and drugs, often times acquiring dangerous addictions.
- Increased Accident Risk: Night shift workers are more prone to accidents in and outside of the workplace due to all of the above conditions taking their focus off the roads and the tasks that are at hand.
Top Overnight Shift Jobs
So, who are these workers staying up all night? Here are the top 16 Overnight Shift Jobs according to Careers that have workers clocking in after dark:
- emergency room doctor
- air traffic controller
- physician assistant
- medical sonographer
- police officer
- security guard
- taxi/rideshare driver
- certified nursing assistant
- hotel and rest front desk clerk
- freelance writer
- customer service representative
- hospital urgent care
- residential counselor
Most of the overnight shift jobs are being performed by first responders or individuals in the medical field. These employees who dedicate their lives to protecting others are getting little back in return when it comes to their own personal health. Laborers, factory workers, and construction workers are also a part of the overnight labor force. Workers in these industries are especially at risk for occupational injuries due to the already hazardous environments they work in.
White Collar Night Work Is Increasing
For decades, the dream of a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. white collar job was a profession many American workers aspired to. However, white collar workers are now feeling the pressure to work later hours as well, often bringing their work home to complete during hours the office is closed. Computer programmers, financial advisors, IT techs, and other computer-based professions are quickly joining the ranks of nightshift workers who put their health at risk for the sake of their employment. Some experts believe workers who are bringing work home are putting themselves at even more risk of sleep disorders and work-life balance issues because they are practicing a 24/7 work week, barely allowing their body time to rest.
How Night Workers Can Stay Safe
Quitting your job just because the shifts are late is not always an option, and frankly, some workers really enjoy the night shift. Regardless of why workers are choosing to work the graveyard shifts, there are several safety methods highlighted by Health Day night workers can use to help increase their health and safety at both work and home:
- Post your work schedule at home so your family can plan activities with you around your shifts.
- Don’t apologize for sleep and stick to a strict sleep schedule during the day.
- Darken your bedroom with shades and blackout curtains to encourage your body to rest.
- Take a warm bath or shower to relax your muscles for better sleep.
- Avoid being in bright daylight within two to three hours of going to bed.
- Avoid sugary foods and carbs before you plan to sleep. Also, try to limit snacking.
- Schedule outings with your friends far in advance and don’t be afraid to go out of the realm of what’s normal. Instead of dinners, try meeting for breakfast on your way home before you are scheduled to sleep for the day.
- Talk to your employers about any issues you are having if you need to adjust your schedule for a healthier work-life balance.
For rotating shift workers (where day and night shifts clash) experts recommend getting at least two hours of morning sleep after your shift and following that up with 12-14 hours of sleep that night.
Stay Safe CT Night Workers
Overnight workers deserve our utmost respect and support for the sacrifices they make to keep our country going while the rest of us are sleeping. And employers should be doing whatever they can to ensure that employees who do take the night shifts are able to recoup their energy without putting their health at risk. If you or a loved one has experienced a work-related injury, Jacobs & Wallace is here to help you get back on your feet. Contact us today for a free case evaluation to explore your options.