Shift Work and Sleep Disorders

A job that requires us to work at hours other than the traditional 9am to 6pm business hours is called Shift Work. Shift work can either be Night Shift, which is working from the night until morning or Rotating Shifts which can be working on day shifts on some days and night shift on others. People working in such shifts may experience irregular sleeping patterns or sleep disorders.

Shift work is an excellent way to maximise productivity, but it also comes with its share of health risks.There is often a conflict between the body clock and the work schedule for people working in shifts. The body expects you to sleep when you actually have to work and vice versa. People  working in shifts experience excessive sleepiness , sleep disturbance, fatigue which further leads to poor concentration, low energy levels, eating disorders, hormonal imbalance and a higher risk of getting ulcers and heart diseases. They also experience mood swings,weight loss/gain difficulty with memory retention and the ability to focus. Abnormal metabolism leads to increased risk of heart diseases.

A wide range of occupation requires either occasional or permanent shift work.There are certain occupations which are at a higher risk of Shift Work Sleep Disorder. A lot depends on the nature of the job of the person affected with Sleep Disorders.Doctors and nurses who work in shifts run the risk of making fatal mistakes. Disrupted sleep schedules may make it quite dangerous for a driver who is behind the wheel. Depression and irritability might make the life of a firefighter difficult. People working in shifts miss out on important family functions and social get-togethers due to their work schedule.

There are many ways to manage work in shifts and stay alert while at work:

  • Making up for the loss of sleep through short power naps during shifts.
  • Being active and alert by taking a walk in between.
  • Minimise daily commute to workplace so that it does not eat into the sleep time.
  • Hot beverages help in keeping awake.
  • Avoid continuous night shifts or rotating shifts.
  • Avoid extended working hours or working overtime.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep on the days off from work.

Good sleep is an essential element for a healthy body. A balanced diet along with exercise and a good sleep pattern helps in maintaining a healthy body.While there are medicines available to deal with sleep disorders it is best to maintain a disciplined lifestyle by eating and sleeping at the right time.A leading psychiatrist in Pune suggests that it is the responsibility of the Human Resources Department to frame policies that will take care of the safety and health of shift workers. Motivating them periodically will not only improve their performance but also instils a sense of security which is again important for the company.By ignoring their needs, the company not only acts irresponsibly but also puts its revenue and goodwill at stake.

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