A recent study completed by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), in collaboration with the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study suggests there is a link between shift work and health.
The study found health problems with pregnancy among nurses. Results suggest that people working night shifts are more likely to experience spontaneous abortions, early preterm births, and menstrual-cycle problems.
There are take-aways for all shift workers from this study. No matter what the profession or trade, shift work, long hours, and sleep deprivation may have a negative effect on healthy lifestyle choices.
Sleep deprivation is associated with changes in hormones that can cause an increase in appetite. Shift work and long hours make it more difficult to find time for exercise. These issues combined increases the risk of obesity.
The shift in the body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm) effects the release of all of the body’s hormones. The hormone responsible for sleep is melatonin and for awake time is cortisol. A shift in routine can conflict with the time the body normally releases the hormones. Melatonin is released with changes in light exposure. Changing the routine before bed will help shift the hormone release.
No matter the time you go to bed, you can improve your sleep by helping your body prepare for it by following these tips:
• Give yourself enough time to sleep after working your shift. The minimum hours of sleep for health is 7 hours.
• Avoid heavy foods and alcohol before sleeping. Limit caffeine in the form of coffee, soda, and chocolate; and limit other stimulants for several hours before bed.
• Get regular exercise for 25-30 minutes 4-5 days a week. Regular exercise will help reduce stress, stay healthy, and improve your sleep.
• Avoid rigorous exercise for at least 2 hours prior to bedtime.
• Sleep in a cool, dark room so you can fall asleep quickly and stay asleep.
•Reduce “blue light” from computers, television, smart phone and electronic notebooks for at least 60 minutes before trying to fall asleep.
• Get professional help from a healthcare provider if you are having continued difficulty sleeping.