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Health Risks That Night Shift Workers Should Know

Globally, most people work on night or graveyard shift today. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in America alone, almost 15 million American adults, work during night shifts. These employees are at a higher risk for a host of health problems compared to those who work at daytime.

Here are the 8 potential health risks of working at night or graveyard shift:

  1. Sleep disorder
  2. Diabetes
  3. Obesity
  4. Breast cancer
  5. Negative metabolic changes
  6. Heart attack
  7. Risk of workplace injury
  8. Depression

Sleep Disorder

Night time is the best time to re-charge our body through rest and sleep.  People working at night got fewer than six hours of sleep a day had more than a doubled risk of bad quality sleep, compared with those who got six or more hours of sleep a day.

The serotonin “feel-good hormone” levels drop for nightshift workers thus shift work hurts sleep. “Since night workers often have a hard time sleeping during the day, they can face both circadian disruptions working at night and insufficient sleep during the day,” study researcher Orfeo M. Buxton, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said in a statement. “The evidence is clear that getting enough sleep is important for health, and that sleep should be at night for best effect.”

Diabetes Risk

Men in particular were more likely to develop diabetes if they had irregular working hours. Time reported, rotating shift workers had a higher Type 2 diabetes risk, likely because of shift work’s impact on insulin activity,

Obesity Risk

According to a study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital researchers in the journal Science Translational Medicine, sleeping too little or sleeping “against” your body’s natural biological clock could increase the likelihood of developing diabetes or becoming obese.

Breast Cancer Risk

French researchers found that the breast cancer risk of women working the night shift for four years was especially clear, as well as those who only worked the night shift for three or fewer nights a week (meaning their daily rhythms were disturbed more often).

According to a study in the International Journal of Cancer, working the night shift raises a woman’s risk of breast cancer risk by 30 percent.

Negative Metabolic Changes

The levels of leptin hormone drop when you work night shift.  Leptin is known to play a role in regulating weight, as well as affect blood sugar and insulin. These changes could lead to a higher risk of serious health conditions like diabetes and heart disease according to research published in 2009 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Heart Attack Risk

A study showed that working the night shift could account for 7 percent of heart attacks that occurred in 2009 and 2010 in Canada, as well as 1.6 percent of ischemic strokes and 7.3 percent of coronary events during that time period, CBC reported.

According to a review of research published in the British Medical Journal, working the night shift could make you more likely to have a heart attack.

Risk of Workplace Injury

Imelda Wong, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of British Columbia’s School of Environmental Health, said in a statement. “Our research shows that people working rotating and night shifts are more likely to experience an injury than those who work regular day hours.”

Working the night shift could nearly double your risk of suffering a workplace injury, according to University of British Columbia researchers.

Their findings, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, reveal that work injuries on a whole in Canada have gone down between 1996 and 2007, but they didn’t go down at all among people who work at night.

Depression Risk

A study in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health showed that depression occurs at a higher rate among shift workers than non shift workers.  Shift work could have an impact on mental health. “Shift work is suggested to increase the risk of developing or aggravating mood disorders at least in vulnerable individuals,” according to a 2008 study in the International Journal on Disability and Human Development. Though they also acknowledged that some experts say depression risk may have more to do with the actual job than working the night shift, the fact that there is a correlation cannot be denied.

What can you do to help?  Stay tuned to new articles that will appear in this blog with solutions to night shift related sleep disorders.


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