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Your Comprehensive Guide to Combating the Adverse Negative Effects of Night Shift

Updated on July 24, 2014

Otherwise known by many as "third shift" or "the graveyard shift", night shift work has become notorious for its near seamless gradual molding of a multi-million person workforce into quasi-zombie like creatures. With circadian rhythms naturally deviating from that of their day shift counterparts, certain occasional physical shortcomings--like slow movements, sunken eyes, and blank expressions--are not only observed occasionally, but they are expected. Despite it's certain appeal grounded in some undeniable advantages, it is the disadvantages of the night shift that demands nothing short of a comprehensive plan to address those adverse effects.

We will get there.

But, first, a story:

Shortly after returning from a year long deployment to Kuwait, with the U.S. Army, my husband was fortunate enough to have found a job almost immediately. Unlike many veterans who struggle to find work, we count ourselves as being extremely fortunate and truly blessed—having found ourselves in essentially the right place at the right time.

We really try our hardest to never take that fortune for granted.

Hired as the 2nd shift production manager at one of his employer’s U.S. based manufacturing facilities underlying its global presence as an industry leader in the mobile payment card business, a series and history of circumstances and mismanagement led to his being aggressively recruited internally to take over the 3rd shift manufacturing production team. What initially began with his leading a team of roughly 30 team members, catapulted to just shy of 60 team members, for a several month period, when an organizational change and restructuring left him to manage the entire 2nd shift team, as well.

Having worked night shift before, namely when deployed as a Soldier to Afghanistan, I knew that he was no stranger to adapting to the immense physiological, psychological, and emotional toll that night shift can bestow upon anyone who isn’t readily prepared to aggressively and proactively combat it. Indeed, the studies regarding the negative adverse effects of night shift are many, and can be found here:

Though he had worked night shift before, the huge impact on circadian rhythm, we knew, stacked the odds heavily against him from the get-go. Having accepted a night shift part time position, as a registered nurse, literally while in the process of constructing this article, I have already begun to empathize with the night shift impacts that my husband continually has to fight and combat.

Devising a Fail Safe Plan to Beat Night Shift

I know, few plans in life are actually "fail safe". Some would argue that plans are just that, and require occasional revisiting, adjustment and modification in response to how certain elements of that given plan are actually working. Indeed, everything from the advice given in this article, to the products recommended, were not done so lightly--in order to devise the most comprehensive plan, that was as fail safe as possible--we had to have actually done the things, or tried the products, of which we recommend.

We really had to take a comprehensive, multi-faceted, approach to carefully planning how exactly we would combat the immense challenges that night shift, itself, would place upon his body and mind. Coupled with just minutes shy of a full hour commute both to and from his work, we knew that that additional driving commute requirement made beating the adverse impacts and challenges of night shift that much more challenging.

Fortunately, we saw this as a serious opportunity to drastically improve our lives together.

Before we jump into the negative aspects/adverse effects/disadvantages of night shift, there are definitely some positive aspects that my husband had conveyed to me. Having recently begun a part-time night shift nursing job, again, I can definitely see both the positive and negative aspects of night shift. Whether you currently work night shift, or have in the past, you can likely attest to these “perks”.

  • The Complete and Utter Void of Any Semblance of Management – Though all businesses are different and not created equal, the upper management of most organizations are typically nowhere to be found at night. Few would say that this is a bad thing. Corporate culture dependent, this really isn't so much about being able to get away with things that employees normally wouldn't be able to get away with, but, instead, more about simply having the autonomy to operate without feeling like someone is continually looking over your shoulder.
  • Increase in Wage or Salary, Due to a Shift Differential – Some employers pay a shift differential. Some don’t. Some night shift workers will argue that the shift differential is “worth it”, while others will say that the increase in wage or salary just isn’t worth continually having your circadian rhythm impacted.
  • Decrease in Social Life – I know, this certainly sounds like a “negative” effect of working night shift, at least on the surface. Because, as a night shift worker, your working routine is drastically different than others, you simply might have to compromise on your social life. Even still, the social life generally tends to lend to certain tendencies, many of which can have even more of an adverse impact on your health, wellness, and general well-being than night shift itself can have. Spontaneous alcoholic consumption can lead to detrimental effects on your liver and other internal organs, while gluttonous food consumption can lead to excessive weight gain. Outside of the rare individual with superior powers of heightened self-discipline and restraint, most individuals err towards the side of social life excess, and do more harm to themselves than night shift itself could ever offer.
  • Speedy Commute -- Though my husband's commute to work hovered just shy of 1 hour in duration, night shift offered a commute, for him, that was generally very fluid and painful. With a dramatic decrease in the amount of drivers out on the road, my husband's commute was nothing short of a breeze. Little to no traffic. No contending with morning commuters to get to work. This was perhaps one of the most enjoyable parts of night shift, for my husband.
  • Unusual Positive Compatibility with Home and Family Life -- When recounting the exact conversation he had with his company's human resources representative, when he was being aggressively recruited to take over the 3rd shift team, my husband detailed a very compelling "selling point" that rep had made to him. Like a refined used car sales man--as my husband often jokingly puts it--the HR rep conveyed the unusual positive compatibility that working 3rd shift could have on his home and family life. Though our 1 1/2 year old son, at the time of this writing, hasn't yet begun school, my husband found it appealing that he could literally be home, each day, to put our son on the school bus. Also, when/if he decided to play for a sports team, my husband would also be available to attend games and sports practices. To my husband, the unusual and unexpected compatibility with his home and family life made the proposal to transfer to third shift all that much more appealing.


Negative Effects of Night Shift Work

Dull or depressed mood.

Lack of attention.

Slow metabolic rate.

Headaches.

Weight Gain

Hair loss.

Pigmentation.

Backache

Lack of sexual activity.


More coming soon.....

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    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      I've not had to work a night shift but I can relate to getting up in the wee hours to begin work at 6:00 am. It's tough I'm sure.

    • someonewhoknows profile image

      someonewhoknows 3 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

      Should call it " Guide to all the negative aspects of the night shift"