Night Work

Most people are not used to working all night. Your natural internal clock is geared towards working during the day and sleeping at night. Shift work, especially late at night, can be hazardous in some professions because of the difficulty in staying awake. In spite of this, there is a necessity for people to be available to work the night shift. It is important for night shift workers to be aware of the impact of night work on the mind and body. This awareness can help the worker prevent a syndrome known as "Shift Lag".

What is Shift Lag?

Shift Lag is a syndrome (group of psychological and physical symptoms) that occurs as a result of working at night. It does not occur with everyone but many people will experience some of the components of Shift Lag especially when they first begin working at night. Before describing the antidotes to Shift Lag it is important to understand the actual components of Shift Lag.

Mental Symptoms:


  • Increased irritability and being moody
  • Overly emotional
  • Too sensitive and defensive
  • Forgetful


Physical Symptoms


  • Fatigue/tiredness
  • Loss of energy and sex drive
  • Broken sleep after shifts
  • Constipation
  • Stomach problems
  • Increased colds and flu's
  • Dehydration


Preventing Shift Lag

Get into the groove of working at night by following these guidelines:


  • Manage your sleep during the day, not just how long you sleep, but how soundly. Make sure all distractions, phone calls and lights are screened out. Try to go to bed at the same time every day, and keep the temperature cool - around 68 degrees (F). Noise is the great enemy of day sleep. Use foam ear plugs, insulate your bedroom with heavy drapes and carpets, muffle noises with a fan or "white noise" machine.
  • Be prudent about volunteering for overtime, double shifts or short callbacks. Chronic sleep loss can endanger your health and the safety of others.
  • Accept that your daytime routines will be different. It's unwise to lead a "normal" life during the day and then work a night shift as well.
  • On days off, overlapping half of your usual work period with sleep will prevent a shock to your body rhythms when you return to work.
  • If you're working a night shift temporarily, sleep in two four-hour periods right before and after your shift.
  • Eat lightly and healthy at night.
  • Follow work procedures carefully and take permitted breaks at work.
  • Get exercise. Studies have shown that extra exercise helps improve or prevent Shift Lag.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Drive carefully after night shift work.


Sleep for Success

You can't simply ignore your biological need for sleep. Take a nap of at least 30 minutes just before going to work. After your night shift go to bed as soon as you're relaxed enough to fall asleep, even though you might want to stay up for hours. Try not to take naps outside your usual sleep times. Finally, make sure your family and friends are aware of your sleep schedule and that you've worked out quality time to spend with them. With good sleep habits your night shift work can be as productive as any work you might do during the day.

Source: Dr. Frank Sparadeo