Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Life of a 3rd Shift Worker

My night started off with me in a bad mood dreading coming in to work. For the normal person, day light savings time is a wonderful thing in the fall because that means an extra hour of sleep but for a 3rd means a extra hour of work. Ugh. As the night progressed I was curious what I could find on the Internet about shift jobs and here are a few sections of an article I found. For those of you not working nights it might give you a glimpse into the life of a shift worker. On the other hand, for those of you who do work odd hours, you're not alone! ;-)
"Night workers may feel they've turned their lives upside down to toil on a schedule that departs from social norms and works against the body's natural circadian rhythms

The main health hazards associated with working nights and rotating shifts are:

•Sleep deficiency. Getting enough quality sleep is the most serious challenge that shift workers face. Chronic sleep loss has been shown to contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, and strokes. And even eight hours may not be enough. Research has shown that day sleep is lighter and less restful than night sleep. Sleep is what restores your brain and organs to keep the machine running smoothly. Without enough of it, your coordination will be thrown off; you may become irritable, anxious and depressed; your short-term memory may suffer; and your immune system may get run down, which makes you more likely to get sick. Many shift workers suffer more than the average number of menstrual problems, colds and flu.

•Digestive problems and weight gain. Some studies have found that shift workers suffer significantly more upset stomachs, ulcers, and bouts of constipation and indigestion than do day workers. "A lot of people I know gain 20 or 30 pounds when they start working nights, and when they go back to days, they lose it again," says Phillips. Why? Unusual sleep and eating habits disrupt digestive patterns, which also follow a circadian rhythm -- the physiological ups and downs in every 24-hour day. Second, as Phillips points out, shift workers are less likely than others to eat a regular nutritious diet because they no longer have the routine of preparing meals with their families -- and vending machines may be their only source of food at work when cafeterias and restaurants are closed

•Stress on relationships. Irritability caused by sleep deprivation -- combined with a schedule that makes it difficult for you to get together with friends and family -- can cause a strain on relationships, especially your connection to your partner or children. Night and rotating shift workers often find that trivial matters, such as responsibilities over loading the dishwasher, can easily erupt into full-blown arguments. Salazar-Biddle says she sometimes takes her crankiness out on her husband, and he understands -- most of the time. "I get really crabby," she admits. "And since I try to save all of my positive emotional energy for our 2-year-old son, I know my irritation tends to come out on my husband."

•Drug or alcohol abuse. Many shift workers resort to prescription and nonprescription drugs. They use sleeping pills, alcohol or barbiturates to sleep, and caffeine or stronger stimulants to stay awake. These drugs can become habit-forming, and could end up adversely affecting your sleep, your work, and your emotional well-being.

A healthy approach for workers
•Post your work schedule in your house so your family can plan around your schedule and avoid disappointments. Don't apologize for needing sleep or not being available for daytime activities. Make sure your family, friends and neighbors understand what time of day you're sleeping and agree not to disturb you.

•Figure out how much sleep you need (most of us need seven or eight hours a day). When it's time for sleep, darken your bedroom and bathroom, take a warm bath, and put on a relaxing tape or CD before going to bed. Avoid doing things that can "activate" your brain like reading a thriller or balancing your checkbook. Always sleep in your bed, not on the couch, and make your bedroom as peaceful and night-like as you can. Install drapes to block light and sound, or wear a sleep mask. Try to cool the bedroom to at least 65 degrees, and avoid alcohol, caffeine, and heavy or greasy food just before sleeping.

•Avoid being in bright daylight within two to three hours of going to sleep. Light blocks our brain's production of melatonin, a natural chemical that makes us sleepy. If you have to go out during this time, wear wrap-around sunglasses.

•For rotating shift workers coming off a night shift, O'Connor recommends getting at least two hours of morning sleep after your last duty on the night shift -- and following that with 12 to 14 hours of night sleep. Avoid the urge to switch back to a night sleep schedule on your days off; it will be that much harder for you to get back on the day schedule when you go back to work.

•Avoid loading up on sugary and carbohydrate-rich foods before and during your shift: Diet also plays a huge role in energy and mood levels. While you may think these foods are giving you an energy burst to help you stay awake and alert, your body may crash shortly afterwards. Try to avoid snacking and eat one balanced meal during your shift. Don't be afraid to alter your diet regimen from that which is considered "normal." If you want to have pancakes and eggs for your "dinner" with your family when you get home from work, go ahead. If you want to make a salad instead, have salad while your kids munch on cereal.

•Don't leave your most boring, tedious tasks until the end of the shift, usually between and 4 and 6 am. That's the time when you're feeling most tired.

•Let your friends know you want to see them and aren't avoiding them; it's just that get-togethers will have to be well-planned.
At first I was searching online just to see that I was not alone in my feelings of frustration working nights but as I thought more about it...there are some up-sides to working the graveyard shift. Here are a few elaborated points I found in another article.

- uncrowded stores (there are some mornings when I only work a partial shift and I get off at 6am and head right to the grocery store. I get to avoid lines and people standing in the middle of the aisle)
- normally there is less supervision on night shifts which creates a little more of a relaxed atmosphere (that is always nice!)
- working on the off shifts usually allows for more comfortable and casual dress (in my job the dress is more casual because of the situations we have to deal with...still it can be a nice thing to be able to wear jeans to work)
- shift workers doing the same job together often form a unique bond (especially working in sometime difficult/dangerous/stressful situations at my job I find that I have to trust the people I work with to have my back no matter what. I tend to communicate more with them and open up because this job requires it!)
- I have to admit that there are mornings I smile seeing people drive to work as I am driving home to sleep.
So those are some random thoughts on the night shift. Anyone feel like converting to 3rd shift?!? Come know you want to!

1 comment:

JonathanG said...

I'll convert...oh wait, I'm already part of the cult!

Another downside of 3rd shift- If you speed on the interstate, you're probably going to get pulled over. :-(