Research has shown that shift jobs increase the risk of being overweight or obese, of metabolic syndrome and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal and mental health disorders, and is even suggested to have a probable risk to cancer.
Impact of Shift Jobs on Your Health
Do you work a shift job? then you need to be a little more intentional about your health.
Shift work entails a work schedule where workers succeed each other, and differs from conventional working hours. This includes night shift, and work that occurs continuously for 24 hours with rotating shifts. As we move towards having a 24-hour economy, shift work has increased over the years and is especially common in the health care, manufacturing, transport, retail, and services sectors. This however has been shown to have adverse health effects. And although the causal mechanism of these conditions is not fully elucidated, observational studies show that changes in work schedules result in physiological and behavioral changes in shift workers which negatively impacts their health.
Working Night Shift May Result in Hormonal Alterations
Working the night shift disrupts the circadian rhythms of normal physiology resulting in hormonal alterations. Studies show that healthy individuals who experience disruptions in the biological patterns of the circadian rhythm may have reduced production of leptin (appetite-reducing hormone), increased ghrelin (appetite-increasing hormone), and increased insulin resistance. As a result, people who eat at night when they ought to be resting, experiences changes in the regulation of body temperature, digestion, energy metabolism, and hormonal responses. Further, the reorganization for activities meant for daytime and nighttime affects lifestyle habits.
Shift work has been associated with an inability and a lack of motivation to maintain health-promoting lifestyle behaviors. As studies have shown, shift work adversely affects the quality and quantity of dietary intake. Shift workers are more likely to consume foods rich in saturated fats and soft drinks. Further, there are reports of increased food intake during the night among night shift workers than among rotating or daytime workers, in addition to more meal skipping and unconventional meal timing among shift workers compared to non-shift workers.
Studies have shown that changes in meal patterns are independent risk factors for glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, weight gain, and obesity. Skipping breakfast has been associated with weight gain and changes in metabolic markers regardless of total caloric intake. Similarly, increased intake of food and calories at night has been associated with metabolic changes and weight gain, while among people on a weight loss program, eating later in the night resulted in less weight loss than having the same meal earlier in the day. The effects of disrupted meal patterns are further exacerbated by physical inactivity common among shift workers due to factors such as time constraints, sleep disruption, fatigue, unavailability of leisure facilities and opportunities to exercise, as well as internal factors such as individual motivation to exercise; in addition to other health risk factors such as smoking, excess alcohol consumption, overweight, as well as having insufficient sleep.
We are living in a very fast-paced world today, and we need to adjust as fast. As it is, we do not expect fewer shift jobs. If anything, working from home has equally disrupted ‘normal’ and created very irregular working schedules as people try to make it work. But what is clear is that your biological clock is a key driver of your health. Knowing this allows us to establish routines accordingly.
If you work a shift job, plan your meals so that you prepare healthy meals and snacks beforehand to carry to work. That way you won’t have to order out. Then time the meals so that you eat less