As you crawl under the covers of your bed each night, there are millions who are just beginning their work “day”. These shift workers on the “graveyard” or night shift experience several health challenges directly related to their reverse cycle lifestyle.
Nurses, law enforcement officers and firefighters represent the three largest groups who work while the world sleeps and many studies have been conducted to identify the unique demands placed on them. These include:
- The most obvious is the unhealthy disruption to the sleep-wake cycle. Shift work forces you to sleep at strange or varying times of day often resulting in reduced amounts of sleep but also lower quality of restful sleep. You may find that maintaining the same sleep schedule every day of the week, even on days off, will help align your body clock with your work schedule.
- Your body distinguishes day from night and also “knows” that you should be asleep when it’s dark outside, this internal body clock is known as circadian rhythm. Your body craves sleep, it revitalizes the body and allows it to rest and repair, and during the hours of 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. your body attempts to shut down whether you are home or working. If you work “nights” you’ve probably experienced this and had to struggle through this sluggish period.
- Your cognitive function slows as your brain is forced to stay awake when it wants to sleep. You will notice difficulty concentrating and focusing on the task at hand. You’ll reach for coffee and/or sodas and sugar as stimulants to help clear the brain fog, but it will only get worse.
Shift Work And Healthy Choices
Shift Workers often make poor decisions related to food and exercise. Donuts, pizza deliveries, vending machine snacks, sodas and candy bars are often go-to snacks in an attempt to stay awake and alert. Unfortunately, all of these “quick energy” choices also quickly raise your blood sugar followed by an immediate release of insulin. The hormone flood that follows will cause any excess calories to be stored as body fat.
to find a solution to this….
Gym or bed? You’ve just struggled through your 8, 10 or 12 hour graveyard shift, you’ve powered through that overwhelming internal need to just close your eyes and drift off to sleep. The sun is just coming up as you open the car door, where to now? Hit the gym or head home to that nice hot shower and bed…which would you choose? Or maybe you need to get home and ensure that your family gets off to work and school. Either way, most of us would opt for home and bed, further adding to your weight gain or limiting your weight loss.
Shift workers make bad food choices and often avoid exercise. This combination, if not corrected, will lead to weight gain and chronic health conditions that could be prevented by healthier meals and an unwavering commitment to regular exercise.
Looking for a way to get out of this cycle? to set up a consultation, we’re happy to help!