It is well known that night shifts form an inevitable part of many professions. Today, many industries especially the BPO organizations and healthcare thrive on the contributions of employees who operate on shifts.
In an effort to compensate for lost sleep, many of the night workers are seen doing their bit to simulate the feeling of darkness amid daylight.
What are the effects of consistent disruption of sleep during nights?
The body clock, also called as the circadian rhythm is a mechanism in the body that tunes us to 'waking times' and 'sleep times'. It regulates our body temperature and causes the adrenaline levels to increase during the day, to keep us alert. The body temperature cools during nights to reach its lowest temperature in the wee hours, so that we sleep well.
According to Prof James Waterhouse of Liverpool John Moores University, working at night can have grave repercussions on health. The disruption of the circadian rhythm or the body clock causes sleep to be disturbed. Even if people do sleep, it is not sound. And this can spark off a host of health problems.
"Workers can take the phone off the hook and have the thickest curtains possible, but surrounding daytime noises continue regardless," says Professor Jim Horne, director of Loughborough University's Sleep Research Centre.
Research has shown the harmful affects of disruption in night sleep which could show up as gastrointestinal disorders. Lack of sleep at night can also cause hypertension, heart disease, though its link is not absolutely clear to researchers.
What employers may not fully comprehend are the health implications of night shifts on their employees. Night shifts cause employees to be more sedentary than their counterparts working in day times.
Not having too many choices for engaging in physical fitness activities as the day is spent in catching up with lost sleep, many night shift staff will have to contend with many health problems. What is worse, night shift workers are confused about the right food , and often binge on junk foods especially chocolates and crisps to stay awake which is not the route to good health.
Reducing the risks related to night shift work may actually reflect in better worker health and safety, experts advice.