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Effects of Shift Work on Health

In the society we live in, it is required that someone is always working round-the-clock. Thus, it is required that more and more people work in shifts. Shifts vary in time, and some are not within the regular work hours of 9am to 6pm. As the number of people working in different shifts grow, more people are also at risk of suffering from a sleep disorder called “shift work”.

Shift Work Sleep Disorder

Shift work sleep disorder, or SWSD, is a type of disorder where the circadian rhythm of sleep is disturbed. It can be seen as a curse of modern society, along with the diseases that a modern lifestyle entails. Our way of life has changed over time. Even the food we eat is not as healthy as it used to be.

SWSD is something that many have to live with. Shifts used to be practiced only in the manufacturing industry. Today, it is currently a common practice in almost all sectors. That said, it is becoming more difficult to find more convenient jobs, and those who work in shift schedules are increasing in number.

Those who have a difficult time adjusting to sleep schedule changes acquire SWSD.  SWSD’s symptoms include insomnia, tiredness, irritability, headaches, difficulty concentrating, excessive sleepiness, impaired functioning and depression.

Health Risks

Suffering from SWSD for a prolonged time has dire consequences. Studies show that shift workers who have this disorder can suffer from very serious health risks.

The Centers for Disease Control says that problems in digestion are often experienced by shift workers. These problems include digestive ulcers, constipation and other stomach problems. When the circadian rhythm is disturbed, a person’s digestion system is also affected.

Shift work can disturb an individual's circadian rhythm.

Another study showed obesity and diabetes can be an effect of SWSD. In the study, three out of a total of eight shift workers acquired resistance insulin. Aside from that, their blood sugar level increased. The hormone called leptin, which burns calories, is also affected. It has been observed its purpose on shift workers slowly diminishes.

In 2007, the International Agency for Research on Cancer stated working in shifts as a possible carcinogen. Shift work disturbs the body’s cycle of day and night. At night, melatonin is produced, when people are supposedly sleeping. Its production is suppressed for shift workers. Melatonin is responsible for sleep and is believed to prevent the development of tumors. More experimental studies support this. It is observed that the reduction in melatonin levels at night increases the possibility of acquiring a tumor.

Have a Healthy Sleep Schedule

These are the effects of shift work on a person’s health. Many may know about it, but they may not have a choice. Regardless, everyone needs the right amount of sleep at the right time. Not doing so will only make things worse.

In the long term, sleep deprivation leads to numerous health risks. That being the case, people who work in shifts should make sure they get enough sleep. Current, there is no way around SWSD. However, employers are trying to take precautions. No employer prefers sleep-deprived workers. Many employers are conscious about the health of their workers.


  1. when I started my shift work I was a mess, it got easier with time, but still a problem not only for health but also for social relations

  2. I think I understand all the effects of shift work on my health, but I need the money and so far I am stuck with it unfortunately