Your Health and Night Shift

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Night shift affects different people in different ways, but it can have negative effects on your health and the way you feel and perform. Therefore it is important if you work night shifts to take good care of your body.

Night shift may affect offshore workers in several ways:

  • By interrupting your sleep cycles
  • By lack of exposure to sunlight (particularly in winter months)

Interrupted Sleep Patterns

Night shift interrupts your body’s natural sleep patterns in the same way that jet lag does.

Your body’s sleep pattern is controlled by two separate processes (sleep / wake homeostasis and circadian biological clock) which tell you when you should feel sleepy or awake.

Interruptions to your body’s natural rhythms can cause ill effects on how you feel and function.

If you find it hard to fall asleep after shift try these simple tips:

  • Don’t drink caffeinated drinks close to the time you go to sleep
  • Do something relaxing before bed. Exercise before bed can make it harder for you to fall asleep.
  • Keep your room cool and dark. Your body temperature dips slightly when you are sleeping. Wear an eye mask if your room is not dark enough.

You may find it useful to use an alarm to waken you with a built in light box. This mimics natural daylight, which would normally provide a cue for your body to waken.

Lack of Exposure to Sunlight

A lack of sunlight can affect your body in several ways. It can cause some people to feel ‘down’ or depressed (a condition commonly referred to as SAD – seasonal affective disorder), have a lack of energy and can result in a deficiency of vitamin D in the body.

If you think you may be suffering from the effects of SAD a light box may help to alleviate symptoms and be purchased online or in the leading high-street chemist.

Vitamin D is produced by your body when sunlight contacts your skin. It is used by your body to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate, both of which are required for healthy teeth and bones. In adults a lack of vitamin D can cause a condition known as osteomalacia where sufferers will experience pain and tenderness of the bones.

Although most of our vitamin D requirements will normally come from sunlight exposure, you can get small amounts from food.

Foods which contain vitamin D include:

  • Oil fish, such as salmon or mackerel
  • Eggs
  • Fortified vitamin drinks, yoghurts or fat spreads
  • Fortified breakfast cereals

Vitamin D supplements can also be purchased from most supermarkets and health stores and may be useful to take offshore when you are working nights.