Does Shift Work Affect Our Health?

25% of Canadians do some kind of shift work, and one in five work nights, according to the Canadian Workers Health and Safety Centre.

Without many realizing it, it’s a lifestyle that can be hazardous to our health.

People who work night shifts on a regular basis have higher rates of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and higher blood pressure. Those are risk factors for several diseases.

Let’s explore the topic of shift work.

Does Shift Work Affect Our Health?

What Does Shift Work Mean?

The term shift work generally refers to any work schedule falling outside the hours of 7 am and 6 pm.

Shift work can include evening, night, and early morning shifts, as well as fixed or rotating schedules.

How Does Shift Work Affect People?

Humans have evolved to sleep at night and be awake during the day.

But as soon as you begin working consecutive nights, the brain’s internal clock begins to shift so that you can be awake at night and sleep during the day.

Some shift workers may tend to be tired all the time. They may also be more likely to suffer from depression.

What Is The Problem With Shift Work?

Shift work disrupts the circadian rhythm. Because circadian rhythm affects how the body functions, disrupting it can throw everything off, including our cardiovascular system, metabolism, digestion, immune system, and hormonal balance. (Source:

What Are The Disadvantages Of Shift Work?

One of the most often cited disadvantages of shift work are sleep ailments such as insomnia. Throwing off a normal sleep schedule can cause a disturbance in sleeping patterns, constant fatigue and insomnia.

Why Is Shift Work Good?

An important advantage of shift work is a less stressful commute to work. Most off hours workers experience less traffic during their commutes and shorter commute times.

General flexibility is another advantage.

How Can I Make My Shift Work Easier?

  • Keep the lights on and bright.
  • Take regular short breaks during the shift if possible.
  • Get up and walk around during breaks.
  • Try light exercise before starting work, it can increase alertness during the shift.
  • Plan to do more stimulating work at times when you feel most drowsy.

What Should I Eat On Night Shift?

Plan your meal breaks.

Eat high protein foods like chicken or hummus. They’re filling and calm cravings, while prepackaged healthy snacks, like unsalted nuts or cut vegetables, are accessible on the run.

Sugary and salty foods are also a big reason for the weight gain that is such a common problem for shift workers. (Source:

How Should I Sleep For A 12 hour Night Shift?

Take a short nap before your shift begins and, if possible, try to get in a few 15 minute naps throughout the night.

Short periods of rest will help keep your energy high, but don’t sleep too long or you’ll risk making yourself groggy. Eat smaller portions throughout the shift. (Source:

Does Working A Night Shift Affect Your Mental Health?

Recent findings show that shift work is associated with considerable impacts on sleep, depressed mood and anxiety. Also seen were higher rates of substance use, impairments in cognition, and lower quality of life. (Source:

What Does Shift Work Do To Your Brain?

Shift work is linked to poorer working memory and slower mental processing speed, according to Austrian researchers. They warned that it may heighten the risk of workplace injuries and errors. (Source:

Final Thoughts:

So then what’s the best shift to work?

For most, the morning shift, approximately 7am-3pm, is best as it allows for a productive workday while potentially not sacrificing too much time away from your loved ones.

It is least likely to negatively impact your health, and gaining adequate sleep and vitamin D is still achievable.

With proper planning and preparation, shift work can be worked in to fit your lifestyle in a way that won’t hurt your health.

Thanks for reading, please comment or follow the links for more information.

Read More:

How To Achieve Work Life Balance

4 thoughts on “Does Shift Work Affect Our Health?

  1. I can agree thanks for sharing that. I have done that briefly and found that rotating every week or two , which we were doing, made it hard for me to adjust..

    Liked by 1 person

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