Working The Night Shifts
“Night shift may kill the body, but afternoon shift can kill the family.”
Today is the day that we celebrate National Night-Shift Worker Day and the introduction of the 24-hour society. Other than our own biological clock, including our need for rest and sleep, there are very few limits to when we can perform almost any task. Before the light bulb few people worked outside of daylight hours. Now more than 20% of employees in industrialized countries are employed in the stressful world of shift work.
“Nap and survive, nod off and perish”.
One repercussion of the nightshift work schedule is that a typical night shift worker sleeps one or two hours less per day than a day worker and often has less deep and REM sleep. Shift Work Maladaption Syndrome or Shift Work Sleep Disorder is where shift work is leaving the worker so sleepy that they fear for their safety on the job. Most people can tolerate a night or two of poor sleep, and will find ways to compensate and overcome the effects of sleep deprivation. However, when the problem occurs over successive days, the undesirable effects of this daily sleep loss are cumulative.Among other things, the problem of maintaining alertness on night shifts becomes greater with each successive day of poor sleep.
Though shift work may be ‘good’ for business, it can take a huge toll on the workers and their families Click to tweet
If not handled properly, it can in fact cause the company more than they may have bargained or budgeted for, through accidents, absenteeism and lowered productivity.
Beverly’s Hot Tips For Ensuring Resilience In Night-Shift Workers:
- Employee input should probably be the most important determinant of schedule start times and rotation length. Thorough discussion of the pros and cons related to shift work need to be held.
- Educating employees on what shift work entails, before implementing a shift schedule will ensure that the schedule decided upon will be successful.
- The best shift system for ensuring resiliency is one that sees the least disruption to sleep patterns and still allows for the maximum amount of social/family time.
- Provide annual screening for shift-related illnesses.
- Promote healthy lifestyle strategies by installing weight/exercise equipment and nutritional food options along with thorough education on both. Organize mandatory stretch breaks especially during the dangerous hours.
The Resilient Night Shift-Worker:
- Understand the hazards and consequences of shift work. Shift work is a lifestyle.
- Pay attention to sleep strategies (See notes) and avoid going into sleep debt.
- Deep breathing helps to boost energy as we tend to breathe very shallow when we get tired.
- Increase exposure to bright light during shift and after sleep which signals our bodies to be alert especially during the shift slump.
- Consider changing jobs if you can’t cope and work becomes too stressful, as approximately 20% of workers can’t adjust to shift work.
Shift work is a lifestyle and in order to minimize stress and build resiliency, the individual must ensure that they follow a healthy schedule, focus on their sleep strategies and ensure that they have support from those around them.
If you have some strategies to share – comment on this posting!
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