Working the night shift is never easy. If this is something you have to do regularly, you may begin to see some negative effects on both your physical and mental health. Here are five of the biggest ways the night shift might impact you, and what you can do to take care of yourself while working these difficult hours.
Working nights means that your schedule will almost never be in sync with the work schedule of your friends and family, which can lead to feelings of depression, loneliness, and isolation. While it can be easy to push social engagements low on your priorities list, it is important to make time to spend with the people you care about. Just inviting friends over to catch up and watch a movie can help you feel connected and, as a result, can drastically improve your mental and emotional health.
Although fatigue frequently comes with overnight work, this doesn’t mean you’ll be able to fall asleep as soon as you get home. In fact, insomnia is a common problem for people who work overnight shifts, due to a disruption in your circadian rhythm. If you can, invest in blackout curtains and wear sunglasses on your commute home at the end of your shift. Exercising regularly, wearing ear plugs or listening to white noise, and keeping to the same daily sleep schedule, if possible, can all help you avoid insomnia.
Stress, lack of time, and fatigue are all factors that can lead to unhealthy behavior and weight gain, especially if you work the night shift. If you are exhausted, the last thing you want to do is cook a meal from scratch. Meal prepping and batch cooking are excellent ways to ensure you’ll always have access to a quick and healthy meal, and snacks like trail mix and jerky can help you avoid getting snacks from the vending machine in the wee hours of the morning, while you’re taking breaks on the night shift.
Even if you make an effort to spend time with friends, overnight work can severely impact your mental health. Along with fatigue and poor diet and exercise habits, lack of sunlight can be very detrimental to your mental health. If your schedule allows, try to get some natural sunlight before you report to work. If not, using a sunlamp when you wake up can help you combat feelings of depression caused by a nocturnal schedule.
All of the health problems caused by overnight work can lead to high levels of stress. Chronic stress is always a drain on the body, so it is important to make a conscious effort to find ways to relax. This could mean meditating, drawing, drinking tea—find the things that calm you down, and make them a priority.
Overnight work is challenging, but the more you know about the health risks involved in working the night shift, and how to stay healthy when you work the night shift, the better you’ll be able to take care of yourself. For more helpful tips on different areas of healthcare, be sure to visit our blog.