Impact of Rotating Shiftwork on Employee Health
Back in 2015, I was working with a shop that decided to implement a rotating shift. Like many people who work a rotating shift, the choice wasn’t up for discussion, at least not for anyone who wanted to stay employed. However, there are strategies to lessen the impact on worker health. Whether a rotating shift is your current or future situation, being prepared to handle it can increase the likelihood of success. Rotating Shifts Circadian rhythms are changes in the body that follow a 24-hour cycle, responding to the light and darkness in our environment. Our circadian rhythm is responsible for influencing our sleep-wake cycles, hormone release, and many other body functions. Ever have trouble sleeping after looking at the phone or computer at night? There is evidence that the blue light emanating from these devices can influence the release of hormones responsible for inducing sleep, since blue light from the sun in the morning hours helps us to wake up. In response to this, many phone updates as of late introduced a night mode, where blue light isn’t released. Unfortunately for many workers on rotating shifts, the solution isn’t as simple as switching modes on a phone. Both night work and rotating shift work have negative physical effects along with social stresses. If you are part of manufacturing, various medical occupations, or emergency response, your work schedule is highly influenced by external factors. Shifts often change based on variables that require longer hours. New projects create deadlines that require adding shifts or moving schedules around. Typically, shiftwork involves working outside of the normal daylight working hours of 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Many involved in shiftwork rotate from a day shift to night shift at different intervals throughout the month. Emergency responders often work this type of schedule.
- Some might work solely overnight, such as grocery stockers or night watchmen.
- The manufacturing industry has production processes that must run 24 hours to operate profitably.
- Many chemical production processes are longer than a typical shift, requiring a day shift, evening shift, and overnight shift.
- Avoid permanent night shifts for workers.
- Keep consecutive night shifts to a minimum.
- Avoid quick shift changes.
- Keep the schedule regular and predictable.
- Consider different lengths for shifts.
- During shiftwork, schedule at least seven hours in bed, even if you don’t sleep the whole time. Block out noise and light. Maintain a regular sleep routine.
- A short afternoon or evening nap can help fight sleepiness during the night. If napping during a break at work, twenty to thirty minutes should be the minimum. A fifteen-minute nap could increase sleepiness.
- Avoid heavy foods and alcohol before sleeping.
- Engage in regular exercise and a healthy diet to reduce the stress on the body and help increase energy. The body will recover easier from the stresses of shiftwork.
- When switching from night to days, get the most sleep the following night. Sleep only a few hours shortly after a night shift and try to stay awake all day, going to sleep at a regular bedtime at night.