The Unhealthy Effects of Reversing Circadian Rhythm
I've been working on a night shift after graduating and I can say that it is not a fun schedule. While others were preparing to have a goodnight's sleep, I am also preparing for a long night’s work.
I was working in a BPO Industry, popularly known as Call Center as a Customer Service Associate before switching into a back-office account support, in also the same industry.
Our clients were mostly US-based so we have to follow their time. My graveyard shift was 10PM - 7Am everyday with rotating day-offs (depends on schedule), and sometimes I have to work seven days a week every night.
My first weeks were great; I am thrilled to have this first job after graduation. But after some time, I noticed my health was declining, I lose weight and I cannot concentrate.
Staying up all night and sleeping during the day is just a simple act against what is normal for our body.
After researching the effects of this work habit I have, I found out that there is a natural cycle in our body, which is sometimes called a "Circadian Rhythm", the internal clock that tells us when we should sleep and when we should wake up. I believed that our body is programmed to function at day and rest at night. So when we work at a night shift, we are forcing our body to operate counter to its “Circadian Rhythm”.
Due to this forcing to counter-operate, we developed this sleep disorder characterized by insomnia and excessive sleepiness which can lead to depression, anxiety, increased fatigue, not able to concentrate, mood swings and loss of appetite.
- Mental and Physical health
The “Circadian Rhythm”, when altered, can adversely affect our mental and physical health. Not getting enough sleep makes our immune system vulnerable to attack and less to fight infections. I was experiencing increased fatigue and slight depressions due to this time schedule. Around my first year as a vampire, I lose my concentration at work and on other things around me. I lose my temper easily to things that I don’t want and that’s makes me irritable.
- Prone to sickness
I often experienced dizziness and nausea when waking up after 8PM after sleeping between 10AM-1PM. I always have slight fevers or colds with chills for quite some time; I think that's because of the environment at work. I'm not used to being exposed on cold temperatures.
- Loss of Appetite / Eating & Sleeping Disorders
This is caused when people neglect to have a healthy diet. The three-square meals a day with healthy servings of fruits and vegetables were replaced by fast-food chains, 24x7 convenience store. Cup noodles, coffee and energy drinks full of sugars are on the main line. I used to eat what is offered on these chain stores. After work, I already lose my appetite for breakfast and will just lie down on bed and sleep. The sleep will continue until I woke up, which is 8PM at night. So I skipped the lunch and will skip dinner again to avoid being late. It always feels like when I woke up that I haven’t even slept at all. So imagine doing this for the rest of the week. I cannot even enjoy my day-offs, I have developed this excessive sleeping habit, I'm using all my free days sleeping!
However, we cannot deny the fact that we need people who will work during night time. Hospitals, fire departments, police stations, BPO industry and production facilities just to name the few are in need of a graveyard shifts schedule.
So after my first anniversary being a graveyard shift and out of the need to continue the life I started, I made some minor adjustments on my habits:
- I rest when I'm not in work. This one I think I did regret a little, I cannot enjoy simple things like shopping and beaches and travel. I just wanted to lie down and sleep.
- Resisting the temptation to drink coffee or energy drink or other beverages that contains caffeine.
- Putting darker shades and curtains in my room and earplugs to my ears if I find it difficult to sleep with all the light and noise.
- Bringing nutritious snacks or healthy meals to work, like fresh fruits and vegetables. I drink water in place of caffeinated drinks (this one, I just kinda do this once in a while when I'm in a mood).
- Taking every opportunity to exercise. I just walk from work to my boarding house. (well, for this one, at least twice a week only)
I did quit the 'dark' life I had after I suffered from extreme fevers and chilling. I cannot get out of my bed, even with all the heat coming from outside because of my no-window room, I was chilling terribly, as if I was in a very, very cold room. And to feel to the worst pain, I was all alone in that room trying to get better. I was very far away from home.
Maybe I'm just having a hard time adjusting to this work schedule, my body just too weak to counter strike the “Circadian Rhythm”. For all those who sacrificed their life and health to work on a night shift in order to help their family and other people, I give thanks.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Life Under Construction