Are shift workers getting the shaft?

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – More studies say that shift work is bad for your heath because it disturbs sleep and eating patterns. Workers face interruptions in their body’s natural clock, higher stress levels, and even higher blood pressure.

“The primary problem is it disrupts your body’s sleeping cycle and the brain chemicals that cause you to sleep or be awake, and it takes a long time to adjust to that,” said Dr. Mark Ringle of Beavercreek Family Physicians.

He said it is worse when you rotate shifts or are on call.

“Some of the studies suggest that if you are going to alternate between first and third shifts, to move that shift forward,” he said. “Going backward in time seems to really confuse your brain.”

“Accidents at work can increase,” he said. “Even some recent studies show there’s an increase incident of cancer… and most disturbing is people who have worked third shift for more than a decade, probably have a decreased life expectancy.”

He said your body can get used to it if you do it properly. “The problem is most people who work an odd shift don’t do what they’re supposed to do,” he said. “They don’t sleep properly during the day, and they’re active at night, and they run up a chronic sleep deficit.”

He said most of these workers are on a two to three hour sleep deficit a day. “And that’s just impossible to run on year after year,” he said. He said the general recommendation for adults is about six to eight hours of sleep a night for optimal health.

He advised people who work third shift to put on dark glasses when they get home to start to acclimate their body, and conversely, make sure your work environment has a lot of light. He said consistency is key when reworking your brain chemistry to adapt to odd work hours.

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