How unhealthy is night shift?

How unhealthy is night shift?


I work with a circadian researcher and also work night shift myself. A lot of the issues from working nights is about the constant switching back and forth, not night shift itself. If you have a good circadian rhythm and stay on a constant sleep schedule you most likely won't suffer the detriments a lot of the usual night shifters do.


It's really difficult to say with exact certainty for everybody but the general indicators are that for most people it's not really healthy in the long run, according to many studies. Between mental health going downhill (possibly balancing sleep vs social life) and hormones being out of whack, it's certainly not easy, and you need a lot of things set just right for you to manage. One thing to note is that your body has a set of clocks that regulate hormones and so on, and say you're geared for 3am sleep, the 7-8am shift could be enough to affect it - or it may not. You also need to consider how your life is outside of work too, as those relationships and your ability to function in general society matters. In the short to medium term, it was fine for me. In the long term, I was going bonkers and gaining a lot of weight - that could be just because of my personal situation though, as I was working 6pm to 7am up to 5 days a week. My colleague who replaced me on the night shift is going through hell at the moment - and he too started optimistically as he had plans to study and so on, but it is taking a toll on him, and even he is gaining weight. My friend sleeping daily around 3am or 4am is fine though - and she has a very slim build, and is a lot more energetic than me.


I view my night health using two metrics - my physical health and my mental health. It sounds like you're doing everything right for the basics (eating well, exercise, good sleep). Do try to expose yourself to sunlight with a morning/evening walk though - that's one thing I'm working on. The emotional/social side is harder. You need friends and family to be willing to compromise and try to meet you early (breakfast!) or when you wake up. It's even harder in current times as things you used to have access to (late movies, bars, gyms, etc) may not be available to you yet. In short, you have to commit to night living, and it's not easy.


Vitamin D supplements will be your best friend. In the long run, working nights can really wear on you. The main issue is you'll have to go stretches of splitting up your sleep through the day during times when life gets busy. It's more draining mentally than physically. Sounds like overall, you're doing it the right way.