Most of us are used to thinking about work as something that takes place from 9 to 5 from Monday to Friday. However, there are hundreds of professions where employees work in shifts. Hospitality workers, police officers, drivers, pilots, guards, doctors, and numerous other professions do not fit into the standard workday. If you are also a shift worker, find out about the effects of your job on your health right now!
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1. Top 5 risks of shift work
Working in shifts is a necessity for millions of people around the world, but it also poses some serious threats to the worker’s health. Here are the 5 most common risks associated with shift work.
1. Sleep problems
One of the most common reasons why shift work is not ideal for your health is because it completely messes up your sleep schedule. If you mostly work at night, you try to catch up on your sleep during the day, but it’s not always easy – there is too much noise, your family members may demand your attention, and there is always something important you should do during the day.
As a result, you start experiencing sleep deprivation. When you need to perform your work at the highest level and your eyes are about to close from fatigue, it doesn’t make you a very efficient worker. Plus, sleep deprivation is a big health risk on its own.
2. Digestion problems
Shift work has a string of negative effects on your gastrointestinal health. Maintaining a normal eating schedule while working in shifts is nearly impossible. You start eating larger portions of food less frequently than you do normally. Without the proper eating schedule and an adequate intake of fiber, liquids and other essential nutrients, your digestion becomes slower and causes problems like constipation, stomach pains, nausea, and diarrhea.
After you have worked in shifts for several months, you will be surprised by how much your mood changes due to your work. There are several factors affecting your mental health when you are a shift worker. First, depression is triggered by insomnia. Second, shift work isolates you from your family and social circle. Third, the wrong sleeping schedule makes it very challenging to continue practicing your hobbies and doing other things for your comfort.
4. Weight gain
The next health issue from shift work is affecting not only your health, but also your appearance. Due to the stressful nature of working in shifts, you start craving high-calorie foods and drinks. Since there are not enough opportunities to spend all those extra calories, you inevitably start gaining weight. Plus, if you often experience sleep deprivation, it can also lead to stress-induced eating and even faster weight gain.
5. Pregnancy issues
According to several studies, women who work in shifts have an 85% bigger risk of miscarrying a pregnancy than women who work normal hours. Plus, shift work increases the risk of premature birth and low birth weight in babies. The only way to avoid these risks is to temporarily go from shift work to working normal hours, so as soon as you find out you’re expecting, don’t hesitate to negotiate a new working schedule with your employer.
2. What can you do to feel better?
The most effective way to eliminate the health risks connected to shift work is, of course, to stop working in shifts and choose a normal working schedule. However, if that is not possible, here are some things you can do to alleviate the negative effects of shift work:
- Sleep a minimum of 7 hours a day and keep a sleep diary to know exactly how much sleep you’re getting. Use heavy curtains or an eye mask to create a better sleep environment.
- Create a new eating schedule: make your meals smaller and eat more frequently by having little snacks every 2 to 3 hours.
- A moderate 30-minute workout before or after a shift can bring tremendous benefits to your physical and mental health.
- Avoid frequent use of caffeine products and alcohol: they may help as short-term solutions, but in the long run, they will create even more problems for your health.
- Maintain your social life by telling your friends to consider your schedule and dedicate even as little as an hour a week to your favourite hobby.
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