Have you just accepted a job working the graveyard shift? Or do you work 8:00am to 8:00 pm six days a week? If either of these scenarios describe your work schedule, you're one of the 15 million Americans working evening, night or other irregular scheduled jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And, because of these irregular hours, shift workers experience higher cases of illness and stress, so it's imperative that you take good care of your health.
Working long or irregular hours (overtime or 12 or more hours) contributes to unhealthy weight gain, increased alcohol consumption and smoking; which leads to poorer health, increased injury rates, illnesses and increased mortality.
Irregular or long hours can also disrupt your sleep patterns, and put a strain on relationships with friends or loved-ones. In order to avoid these health problems brought on by your job, follow these tips to lead a healthy life while working the late shift, according to Caremark Health Resources:
- Figure out your sleep schedule: This is important for shift workers who work the graveyard shift. Try to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep. Darken your bedroom and make it as night-like as you can. And, avoid anything that will "activate" your brain - such as reading.
- Avoid sugary or carbohydrate-rich foods: Diet plays a big part in your health and it's tempting to consume more beverages or food that will give you that extra boost. However, while you think your body is getting extra energy, it may crash afterwards. Try to avoid snacking and eat one balanced meal during your shift.
- Avoid drugs and overuse of alcohol: Many shift workers resort to prescription drugs, reports Caremark. It's common to use sleeping pills, alcohol or barbiturates to sleep. These drugs can be habit-forming and might have an adverse effect on your sleep, work or emotional well-being. Find a constructive way to cope with your schedule and seek alternative ways to get sleep or deal with the stress of your day.
- Post your work schedule: Place your work schedule in a highly visible place so that family members are aware of your hours and can plan around your schedule. Additionally, you should ensure that your family, friends and neighbors understand your work schedule so that they do not disturb you when you are sleeping.
If you're working long or irregular hours it's important for you to remember that your health comes first. Your job is important but not as much as your health and well-being.