With the retail boom and exponential surge in online and e-commerce platforms, jobs in the graveyard shift or night shift, as it is commonly known, have seen a seemingly increasing trend in recent times. Though certain job roles, especially those pertaining to caregiving (doctors and nurses, emergency personnel, cab drivers), have always demanded to work in night shifts, the more recent demands of the 24-hour economy have led to this sudden surge in the general job scenario. As a result, there has been a paradigm shift towards white-collar workers from IT, BPO and Retail sectors working in graveyard shifts which were previously dominated by blue-collar workers like factory employees and security personnel. In addition to this, socio-economic reforms encouraging gender equality, equal job opportunity and equal pay have led to an increasing number of women getting involved as part of the nocturnal workforce.
A study published in the
American Journal of Preventive Medicine, has
revealed that while nurses working in graveyard shift for 6-14 years were at
19% higher risk of mortality due to cardiovascular diseases (CVD), ones working
for 15 years or more were at 23% higher risk of mortality due to CVD and 25%
higher risk of mortality due to lung cancer[1,2]. Another study
conducted by the National Surrey Sleep
Research Centre (NSSRC), UK published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that women
working in night shifts are indeed more affected compared to men.
A finding published in the journal Sleep
Medicine has reported that night shift work increased the risk of breast
cancer morbidity by: 1.9% for 5 years, 2.5% for 5-10 years, 7.4% for 10-20
years, and 8.8% for >20-years of night shift work. Additionally, rotating
night shift work enhanced the morbidity of breast cancer by 8.9%.Similarly,
another research has linked the higher incidence of rectal cancer risk in
nurses working in night shifts. Shift work has also been linked to
menstrual cycle and pregnancy problems including miscarriages.
These findings clearly prove that gender indeed has a prominent role to play in
the context of night shift work.
So, let us put our
thinking caps on to ponder and discover why.
Night shifts usually
affect work-life balance due to social stress, work-family conflict,
psychological distress and most importantly, itimpairshealth-related quality of
life. Especially, it takes a toll on our health mainly due to the disruption of
our body’s circadian rhythm. To elaborate, the circadian rhythm is the body’s
internal 24-hr clock which controls various biological processes. It is a
natural cycle controlled by human brain which is influenced by light stimulus;
it basically connects the external environment with our body. Additionally, our
daily activities like eating, sleeping, exercising also affect circadian
rhythm. So, it is extremely important to maintain a consistent, healthy
circadian rhythm for our overall health, well-being and prevention of certain
chronic diseases. 
For women, circadian
rhythm is strongly linked with the secretion of certain hormoneslike melatonin,
cortisol, thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), prolactin (PRL) which in turn are
regulated by their menstrual cycle.This interaction bears a direct correlation
with the sleep cycle of women. Further to this, the menstrual cycle is governed
by the gonadotropic and sex steroid hormones.Abnormal circadian
rhythms have been linked to hormonal imbalance in women. Hormonal misalignment
with the environmental light-dark cycle and/or sleep wake cycle interrupts the
reproductive pathways in women .
Additionally, women also
carry the social obligation of family and child care responsibilities .
Furthermore, night shift work come with its own set of lifestyle challenges
like increased smoking and alcohol consumption, improper diet and reduced
physical activity. A combination of all these factors cumulatively increase the
health risks of women resulting in various sleep disorders (difficulty in
falling asleep, excessive sleepiness during working hours), metabolic disorders
(diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension), mental disorders
(depression, cognitive deficits), gastrointestinal disorders (ulcers),
reproductive disorders and even cancers.
Control of the Situation:
it’s always better to find out a regular shift job, but it might not be readily
available or your field of expertise might not provide you with enough scope.
So, it is always better to try and modify the present situation to suit
the Right Diet: – Itis advisable for night shift workers to
choose a light nutritious meal and restrict intake of high calorie foods during
midnight to 6 AM. It would be easier on the body’s digestive system. During daytime, be conscious to have a healthy
balanced meal. It is best to avoid caffeine and products with concentrated
sugar like carbonated beverages. Instead of coffee, choose green tea or any
suitable herbal drink as your mid-night refresher.
Healthy Lifestyle Choices: –Refrain from substance
abuse like tobacco, gutka and
a Proper Sleep Cycle during Day: – It is extremely
important to establish a proper sleep cycle during the day time to realign the
circadian rhythm. Scheduled naps before night shift work can have an alerting
Daily Physical Activity: One must indulge in some kind of
physical activity like brisk walking, swimming, strength training as per their
convenience everyday for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour. During work breaks as
well, one can do some light exercises sitting at their workstation. Another
good way of workplace exercise is choosing stairs over elevator.
Women are the backbone of families. So first, they must ensure good health for their own –and then, the glow of a healthy and beautiful life will automatically reflect upon the family.
By Eshani Bhaumik Barui,Food Technologist and Dietitian,YANA Diet Clinic @ SastaSundar.com .