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Does Night Shift Cause Depression
People select night shift work for better income and flexibility with other jobs and school schedules, yet they suffer from sleep deprivation, depression, and anxiety. What you can do to solve these issues, as well as why it’s critical to do so.
For Scott Repasky, a security guard who is familiar with the difficulties of working the night shift, an average weekday isn’t so typical. “I work 12-hour shifts on the weekends. My sleeping patterns are all over the place,” he admits.
Repasky is one of the 21 million Americans who work shifts regularly outside of the day, most often between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Although these movements are common in many different sectors, such as manufacturing, hospitality, and health care, they all provide their own set of challenges.
“Night shift work may be less stressful. It’s better that things go more slowly and there are fewer people around, according to Repasky. However, in my experience, night shift workers are lonesome, unhappy, and drowsy.
The fact that night shift employment is more than twice as likely to be part-time, which means that people who work nights frequently attempt to fit family obligations, other jobs, or school schedules, exacerbates these issues.
The US Department of Labor states that while night shift employment occasionally entails higher pay (which is typically the case in nursing and other healthcare professions), no employer is compelled to offer a premium. The truth is that most night shift employees make less money on average than daytime employees do, and only about 7% of night shift employees say that working unusual hours is because of the higher income.
Former Uber executive Julia Lemberskiy claims to have seen firsthand the daily toll shift work can have on both employees and their families. Lemberskiy oversaw operations at Uber Works, the ride-sharing company’s staffing branch, up until the platform was shut down in May 2020 due to COVID-19-related layoffs.
Lemberskiy claims that during focus groups and worker feedback sessions, she saw many shift employees dealing with financial difficulties. She adds that few possessed automobiles and that many frequently struggled to pay for the cost of using public transportation to work. According to her, “the majority of our shift workers were working irregular hours, for little pay, therefore there were financial issues that also hampered their capacity to work.”
Many shift employees are single parents or caregivers attempting to balance personal obligations with last-minute scheduling, which is typical of shift work. While Uber Works was proactive in addressing these problems, according to Lemberskiy, “employees’ needs and mental health take a back place” at most staffing firms.
Can Working Shifts Cause Depression?
According to research, people who work the night shift may have a 33% higher risk of depression than people who typically work during the day. Although the cause of this depressing statistic is unknown, disturbed sleep may have a role.
According to Michael Grandner, PhD, director of the University of Arizona’s Sleep and Health Research Program, shift workers can exhibit a variety of sleep disorders, from insomnia to circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders.
What causes this to occur?
Because night shift employees sleep primarily during the day, their circadian rhythm—the body’s natural 24-hour clock—is disrupted. We stay awake throughout the day and fall asleep at night thanks to signals that are sent out by our internal clock in response to signs of light and dark.
The evidence indicates that if a night worker’s circadian rhythm doesn’t adjust to the sun’s light/dark cycle, signals of wakefulness will continue to disturb their daytime sleep. As a result, night workers get fewer hours of sleep and wake up feeling exhausted rather than well-rested.
If that wasn’t challenging enough, there is growing proof that depression and sleep difficulty are related. According to this study, 75% of sad people also have symptoms of sleeplessness. People who don’t get enough sleep run the risk of getting caught in a vicious cycle where their bad sleep feeds their depression and their depression makes their sleep worse.
Grandner considers the findings of his own team’s research, which revealed a startling connection between staying up late and a higher risk of suicide. Grandner notes that this impact has not yet been studied among night shift workers but that the fact that shift workers are frequently exposed to being awake during the biological night undoubtedly causes concern.
5 Coping Techniques for Night Shift Work
Even while working the night shift has its share of difficulties, there are steps you may take to lessen the strain it puts on your mind. You can take the following actions:
Place Sleep Above All Else
Although the link between sleep and mental health may seem clear, getting enough sleep cannot be stressful enough. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that getting less sleep than the advised 7 hours per night is associated with a range of health hazards, including heart disease, cancer, stroke, and depression. Sleep heals and repairs the body in a variety of ways. Additionally, if you feel like you have short fuse issues, it may be due to sleep deprivation-related patterns of negative thinking and anger.
Sleeping during the day is the norm for night laborers. Here is some advice from experts to help you get a better night’s sleep.
Protect your sleep. Grandner claims that shift workers need to pay particular attention to shutting out the light, noise, and other disruptions. Blackout curtains may become your new best buddy because signals from the sun might make your body wake up. Wear a sleep mask or take devices out of your bedroom to block out any inside light that might be lowering your melatonin and keeping you from falling asleep. It’s a good idea to avoid using your phone, laptop, or TV screen in the few hours before bed because blue light is the most disruptive for sleep. You may also try wearing blue-light-blocking glasses.
Get up, if you can’t sleep. Grandner notes that while at first glance this may seem paradoxical, it is an approach utilized in cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I). CBT-I, which is based on the concepts of conventional CBT, aims to address the thoughts and behaviors that are interfering with sleep and replace them with fresh, healthy routines. An example of a bad sleeping habit is staying in bed while you’re not asleep. When you do this, your mind starts to connect your bed with being awake and restless. A better routine? Get up and spend around 30 minutes doing something instead of rolling around in bed. If you start to feel sleepy, go back to bed and try again.
Adhere to a routine. Your circadian rhythm can adapt to your irregular sleeping hours with the help of a sleep schedule. According to research, it’s recommended to avoid coffee six hours before night, and a 10-minute power nap will help you feel less sleepy and awaken your brain.
Speak with a sleep expert. Grandner advises searching online for a sleep specialist, particularly one who uses CBT-I if lack of sleep is negatively affecting your life. (Note: This evaluation of multiple trials points out that CBT-I can be successfully delivered via telehealth.)
Plan to spend time with friends
An irregular schedule might make you out of touch with your loved ones, preventing you from attending social gatherings and even day-to-day interactions. To stay in touch with loved ones, you’ll need to do a little extra preparation.
Grandner advises collaborating with loved ones to plan times when everyone has free time. He advises making plans for “asynchronous communications,” such as sending a text message to a sleeping friend to wake them up, for those times when your calendars just don’t line up.
Make it clear what you expect from your friends and family.
Women who have children may find it particularly difficult to strike a balance between work, sleep, and family obligations, according to Nicole Arzt, LCMFT, a member of the Family Enthusiast advisory board. She claims that these parents work at night, gets some rest in the morning, and then are caught spending the day with their children or running errands. The importance of prioritizing your sleep is emphasized by Arzt. “Create restrictions around it. Inform those around you not to bother you during specific times.
Increase your daily exercise routine.
Your mental health will benefit from exercise. Period. Although you have probably heard it before, the repercussions are astounding. A daily dose of 5 to 30 minutes of moderate exercise enhances mood and focus. Running or another intense activity can take the place of 15 minutes of sitting, perhaps reducing your risk of depression.
Recognize your worth and stand up for it
Throughout her career, Aneesa Hollingshead, EVP of Operations and Strategy at Shift fillers, has interacted with thousands of shift workers. She says it is all too usual to hear horror stories of employees being treated disrespectfully by managers or staffing agencies.
The lack of investment in shift workers’ career development and trajectories also revealed a lack of respect for them as valuable human beings, according to Hollingshead. She argues that companies in the shift work sector frequently anticipate substantial employee turnover; this stigma manifests itself in how shift workers are treated and feed into an unhappy cycle. “Though you treat your employees as if they won’t be a long-term part of your business, they won’t be. In a sense, it’s self-fulfilling.
Never forget that you don’t have to tackle your challenges alone, no matter what they may be.