9-5. Monday through Friday. Those are the quintessential hours for the American work week. Unless you live in Las Vegas, where tourism is the number one business and where more than 42 million visitors come annually. With 41 percent of Southern Nevada jobs supported by the tourism industry, it’s a guarantee that a large percentage of those employees will be working anything but the 9-5 day shift. So what are the implications of such a shift?
When my husband moved to Las Vegas almost three years ago for an engineering position on the strip, he began on the graveyard shift and then transitioned to swing shift. Even after nearly 2 3 /4 years with the same company, he was still on swing shift. And then came the opportunity to pursue an engineering management position at a different property. The one downside—it was the graveyard shift. From a practical aspect, it seemed to fit the needs of our family. My husband recently took custody of his three sons, and with three of my own, staggered shifts meant two parents at home in the critical hours after school leading up to bed time. However, it meant that just as my husband got home from work, I’d be leaving to go to work as he tried to settle in to sleep. Last week marked the first week on this shift, and so, it was his idea as I sat staring at this blank screen to look at the health implications of working the night shift.
Two years ago Time magazine examined the toll night shift takes on the brain over the course of a 10-year period. Research found that those working shifts had “lower scores on tests of memory, processing speed, and overall brain power than those who worked normal office hours.” During the same time period, Huffington Post also reported on the effects of shift work citing the following eight ways in which working the night shift hurts your health:
- Those working night shift get less sleep than their counterparts working during the day
- Increased diabetes risk
- Increased obesity risk
- Increased breast cancer risk
- Negative metabolic changes
- Increased heart attack risk
- Increased workplace injury risk
- Increased depression risk
Luckily, there may be a few things that individuals can do to help combat the negative effects of night shift work. They include:
- Stick to a regular sleep schedule, even on the days when one is not working
- Aid melatonin levels by taking a supplement of 3 mg every night to help improve length and quality of sleep
- Avoid prescription medications aimed at aiding alertness of shift workers, or ones to aid in sleep
- And ask for a different shift (if only it were that easy)!
Just one week in, our entire house is in the process of getting used to dad’s new schedule. Hopefully it will be a temporary work shift on the way to better hours. But for now it will be about making sure that he doesn’t let this shift lead to poor decision-making, but instead remains cognizant of his overall health and listen to the cues his body is giving him.