Can Night Shift Work be Damaging Your Health?


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Night shift work has increased over the years tremendously. It helps get items stocked on the shelves at our local grocery store, aids in delivering necessitites and goods to the public and increases the company’s bottom line. But did you know there are certain risks, health risks to staying up past a certain time?

You have heard me talk about the circadian rhythms for quite some time. For some reason this topic is absolutely fascinating. Our bodies have evolved to rise with the sun and go down with the sun. We move based on nature. Disrupting this internal body clock by working the night shift, staying up late or exposing yourself to light in the middle of the night can actually have some serious effects on your health in the long run.

When we expose ourselves to light in the daytime, like we’re supposed to do, our seratonin levels increase. This gets us up and ready to go about our day. In response to darkness, seratonin production becomes supressed, and melatonin gets released. This hormone makes us sleepy and is a vital hormone we should experience every evening for our bodies to work properly.

Exposing yourself to artificial light in the middle of the evening, like one would do if they work staying up late watching TV or doing night shift work, confuses your hormones. Melatonin, which should be secreting at this time of the day becomes suppressed. Serotonin begins to increase.

Studies are showing that when we mess up this biorhythm, we increase our risk very highly for an incidence of disease. One study showed that breast cancer in women increases while performing night shift work. This is mainly due to exposing our eyes to light in the middle of the night when we should be sleeping.

Heart disease, cancer (especially since the body is devoid of sunlight, which facilitates vitamin D production), obesity and diabetes also increases while performing night shift work. Messing with the delicate balance of our natural hormonal signals can only mean one thing–inevitable disaster for our health. It is hard to accomplish perfect health, especially in the days we live in. Night shift work will not cease anytime soon, but if you are working these late hours it is important to know your risk.

The best time to be asleep is anywhere after 11 pm, as our body performs its major detoxification processes after this time. Also, you will be secreting high levels of melatonin after these hours, if light is not present in your room. Night lights, TV and the hall light needs to be slowly fazed out over time. Melatonin has shown great promise in healing and anti-aging, so it is an important hormone to be manufacturing on a nightly basis.

Sometimes I have to stay up later than usual. As a college student I have plenty of deadlines; from school work, to writing, blogging, recipe testing, exercising,  meditation, club meetings, my own business–free time is sleep time. That being said, sometimes getting to sleep on time is not perfect as of yet. I manage to get in bed by 10 PM in a very dark room at this time. I suppose your health “rituals” must evolve overtime, and you can’t expect it to be perfect the very first go! đŸ™‚

I find that many, many of my healthy friends do everything else right, but put their sleep on the back burner. What time do you go to sleep? How much do you sleep? These answers will really help me in a future blog post.

Until then, this is the Healthy Advocate.

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