Useful Tips

How to work the night shift?


Doctors chronically lack time for individual recommendations: lifestyle, diet, nutrition, and prevention methods. Nevertheless, it is useful to know: how to avoid exacerbation, to independently assess the importance of a particular symptom, to provide yourself with first aid.

We are deeply convinced that such conversations are extremely important to you. We continue the cycle of posts about what I would like to add to medical appointments. Today we touch on the topic of night shift work.

Each of us at least once in life had to stay awake all night. The consequences of one sleepless night can easily be eliminated by simply having a good night's sleep, but what if the night’s sleep is something you cannot afford, since you work on the night shift?


1) Hormonal confusion.

Serotonin levels in night workers decrease and this causes irritability, a tendency to depression, and sleep disturbances. The production of insulin and leptin, a hormone of satiety, changes. Scientists noted that those who work at night, increased appetite and weight gain associated with fluctuations in the level of these hormones. In addition, nocturnal activity led to a jump in cortisol, the stress hormone. As a result, the participants in the experiment increased blood pressure and blood sugar, and this condition is characteristic of the initial stage of diabetes.

2) Gastric ulcer and 12 duodenal ulcer, spastic colitis, constipation, increased blood pressure.

The work of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) is not amenable to conscious control of a person. During the day, that part of it that is called the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is active, and at night - the parasympathetic (PNS). The sympathetic nervous system is aimed at accelerating the work of the body, performing the function of a kind of gas pedal - it stimulates the production of adrenaline and cortisol. The parasympathetic nervous system performs the opposite function, it is a kind of brake that allows the internal organs to rest: slow down the heart rate and relax the muscles and blood vessels, lower blood pressure and acidity in the stomach, remove intestinal spasm and thus ensure its smooth progressive motility. Waking at night “pulls” the rope towards the sympathetic nervous system, preventing the parasympathetic from “turning on” its functions until the person is at rest.

3) Decreased immunity.

A study by the World Health Organization suggests that night work increases the risk of breast and rectal cancer in women and prostate cancer in men. Obviously, a violation of the natural life rhythm weakens the immune system and thereby creates the conditions for the growth of cancer cells. At a minimum, a hit on immunity is fraught with frequent colds and flu.

Since the human brain, like the whole body, is predisposed to night sleep and daytime wakefulness, then when you change the regime, the concentration of attention decreases, the worker becomes more dispersed.

5) Chronic lack of sleep.

Night workers are forced to save time in sleep, since most cases can only be done during the day. Therefore, after a night shift, instead of filling the “gap” with equivalent 8 hours of sleep, a person sleeps 4-5 hours, or even less. It should be borne in mind that daytime sleep is more superficial than nighttime, which means 8 hours of sleep is an obligatory minimum. Chronic lack of sleep threatens a severe malfunction in the metabolism of the body, with all the ensuing consequences. In addition, chronic fatigue affects the mood of the employee: he becomes more irritable, his character deteriorates over time.

6) Harmful changes in the diet.

On the night shift, people eat more (and more often sweets), taking fatigue for hunger, more often they drink coffee or strong tea with sugar, so as not to fall asleep, and when they return home, they are firmly reinforced - not because they want to eat, but because the body is confused.

Often this happens: accustomed to night vigil and daytime sleep, night workers gradually cease to maintain their former social ties, due to strong differences in regimes. Such people often launch their appearance, stop playing sports. An employee becomes more and more withdrawn if he does not work in a team.

Almost every of the above items can be avoided, but this requires some effort.

These actions should become a habit if the employee wants to maintain his health:

1) In order to reduce the effects of daily hormonal confusion, one should "Trick" the body. What distinguishes night from day for our brain? First of all, the level of illumination of the space around. Make sure that sufficiently bright lamps are included in the working hours, if possible imitating daylight. Quite the contrary, during rest hours it is necessary to isolate yourself from daylight with the help of dense curtains, blinds. Wear dark glasses on the way home, otherwise the sunlight will cheer you up and deprive you of sleep.

2) Since immunity is a whole system that is influenced by a huge number of factors, then You can increase immunity by strengthening the whole body as a whole.

Nutrition has a great effect on the immune system, because through food we get almost all the necessary vitamins, minerals, trace elements. These substances are best absorbed if consumed in their natural form (fruits, vegetables), and not in tablets. But vitamin complexes often help our body.

Everyone knows about such a method as hardening, but most are sure that hardening is a cold habit, for example, walking in the snow in shorts. But in fact, the essence of hardening is to quickly respond to a sharp change in temperature in the training of mucous membranes. Hardening helps to avoid colds.

Also, one should not forget that stress is the main enemy of immunity.

3) What if the lighting at work is beautiful, but it still tends to sleep?

Aromatherapy will help increase concentration and attention without harmful consequences. Buy the essential oil of any citrus from the pharmacy and inhale its aroma when you feel that the concentration is falling. You can put an aroma lamp next to you, you can apply oil to the pulsating points where you will smell (for example, on wrists, temples). If you don’t like oils, you can take a lemon with you and breathe in the aroma of its skin, as well, as an option, you can buy a perfume with pronounced citrus notes.

4) Do not neglect the 8-hour sleep.

Eliminate the noise. Since most people are awake during the day, you may encounter the noise of vehicles or neighbors during sleep. You can block the noise with earplugs or by putting a fan in the bedroom, which usually blocks background noises. Turn off your phone before bed so that no one wakes you up.

Set a specific ritual before bedtime. Try to relax before going to bed to relieve stress after a night shift, for example, read a book, listen to gentle music, or take a warm bath. You must maintain a consistent sleep schedule even on weekends to adapt your body to night shifts.

5) The main enemy of the night worker is overeating.

Nutritionists recommend not to overeat, not only because they worry about the volume of your waist. A heavy dinner is contraindicated for those who are forced to stay awake at night. He makes him sleepy, heartburn and a feeling of heaviness appear. Since most cafes are usually closed at night, it is important to focus on healthy eating. Prepare food at home and take it to work so you don’t eat machine gun bars or other junk food. Coffee should be consumed before or at the beginning of a work shift. If possible, reduce your coffee consumption to 200ml per shift.

6) Do not miss the opportunity to meet friends.

Warn everyone you want to chat with about your work and sleep schedules. Then they will not feel “abandoned” by you. Exercise. Elementary charge after a day's sleep or before a shift will increase working capacity, stress resistance, contribute to faster falling asleep and help you to be in shape.