Working the overnight shift at any job negatively impacts your mind and body in so many ways. Did you know the human body was genetically engineered to be alert in the daylight and to go to sleep when it gets dark?

Because we are genetically engineered that way, when we try to maintain a sleep schedule that doesn’t line up with our circadian rhythms or daylight cycles, we force a neurohormonal abnormality to develop in our bodies.

Research shows people who work day or evening shifts face roughly the same risk of disease, but that risk increases by 30 to 40 percent for anyone who works the overnight shift, simply because they force their brain to run counter to their circadian rhythm.

An even worse scenario occurs when a person moves back and forth between overnight and day or evening shifts. Their brain never gets the chance to adapt to the abnormality of working overnight and sleeping during the day.

 

Avoid Sleep Disruption

 

If you only need to disrupt your sleep schedule one night per week, you can probably pull that off without causing any ill effects to your health and without learning any bad sleep habits.

If you work at a job with no alternative but to work overnight several times a week, I strongly recommend you adopt a nocturnal lifestyle all of the time. Even on your days off, you should remain awake at night and sleep in the mornings or afternoons. You need to allow your brain to establish a pattern around the light cycle it’s going to follow, even if it’s not the one your body is best designed for.

 

Minimize Health Hazards of Poor Sleep

 

If there’s just no way to follow a nocturnal lifestyle and your sleep patterns are a disaster, I would encourage you to speak with your doctor. There are some things we can do to try and rig the body to work in your favor.

While we cannot make the system return to normal due to how complicated  circadian rhythms are, we can minimize the damage to your health and keep it under control. The worst possible outcome will come from doing nothing and leaving your shift work sleep disorder untreated.

 

Watch What You Consume

 

Many things cause sleep disorders in addition to working the night shift. For instance, excessive use of caffeine – meaning more than two or three caffeinated beverages – consumed in the afternoon or evening can disrupt sleep. Indulging in more than one or two drinks of alcohol a week, especially before bed, also causes poor sleep. Drinking either near bedtime prevents the brain from performing the restorative work of sleep in the right way.

If you have questions about sleep disorders and how they may be impacting your health, please call us at PureHealth Family Functional Medicine at (317) 559-2515, or you can email me at drstock@purehealthmed.com.

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