Siloam Springs Herald Leader

Working on your night moves

- By Siloam Springs Regional Hospital

It doesn’t matter if working in the evenings is new for you or if you’re a veteran night owl. Either way, you may not be performing at 100%.

That’s because night shifts and staying up late can throw off the circadian rhythms that control our sleep/wake cycle, digestive patterns, body temperatur­e and mood. Our bodies are used to being alert and hungry when exposed to light and ready for sleep at night, so altering that schedule can put us at higher risk of health conditions and dangers, including:

• Cancer risk — Melatonin, a hormone your brain produces in response to darkness, doesn’t just help you sleep. It also can prevent tumor growth and cancer spread. Research shows breast cancer (not related to family history or BMI) is more common in women who have worked night shifts long-term. One study found a higher prevalence in people who worked for at least three hours between midnight and 5 a.m. for a decade or more.

• Type 2 diabetes and heart disease — A new study in Experiment­al Physiology found that night owls are more sedentary, work out less and burn less fat than early birds. Those who stay up late also are more likely to use tobacco, alcohol and caffeine.

• Metabolic disorders — In one study, police officers who worked 8 p.m.-4 a.m. had higher levels of metabolic syndrome symptoms than their day shift coworkers. Even if you’re not in law enforcemen­t, schedules that bring on this cluster of symptoms also increase your risk of high blood pressure, blood sugar, additional body fat around the waist and abnormal cholestero­l levels.

• Crash risks — Being tired makes you less productive and more prone to making workplace mistakes. However, driving home in that condition can be risky. A University of Missouri study found that people who work the graveyard shift are three times as likely to be involved in a car accident or near-crash.

So, how can you protect your health if you have to work evenings or you like to burn the midnight oil?

If you have to work the evening shift, try to get on a consistent schedule versus flip-flopping between day and night shifts. If you can’t do that, try to trick your brain with light. For example, expose yourself to bright light in the evenings but when you return home in the daytime wear sunglasses and keep your bedroom as dark as possible to inspire sleep.

It’s not all about sleep – it’s about food too. Though eating at night is tempting, try to eat during the day. Studies have shown the body has trouble processing sugar at night. This leads to a 6% increase in glucose levels, raising diabetes risks for night owls.

In addition, schedule regular check-ups with your healthcare provider. Be sure to share any concerns you have about decreasing work performanc­e, severe fatigue, mood changes, weight changes or sleep problems.

To find a provider who can test you for night shiftrelat­ed risks like diabetes, cancer and heart disease, visit Online today!


It’s time to show your heart some love with our 28-Day Healthy Heart Challenge. Sign up now and every day in February we’ll send you heart healthy tips along with a daily challenge to boost heart health. Visit NorthwestH­ealth. com/heart-challenge to register today!

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