Health Hazards of Working Nightshift That Every Healthcare Traveler Should Know

by Howard Gerber on May 14, 2015

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travel-nursing-night-shift-healthWorking nightshift as a healthcare traveler may be your choice or it may be the only way you can get the assignment you want. Some people love the atmosphere of working overnight. Hospitals are not as crowded with visitors, and the vibe is often more low-key than on dayshift.

But not everyone enjoys working nights. In some cases, you may just be paying your dues until you can get a dayshift assignment. Whether you love or loathe the nightshift, there are some things you should know about working overnights.

Health Troubles

Working nights is a potential health hazard, according to several studies. Working overnight goes against your natural sleep/wake rhythm. Your body is biologically programmed to sleep at night and be awake during the day. When you work nights and sleep during the day, you throw your body systems off base. Working overnight can affect insulin levels, hormones, and mood.

Shift workers also often don’t get solid sleep during the day. Even if you are used to working nights, it still may be difficult to get quality sleep.  Lack of restorative sleep can lead to decreased immune system function, depression, and increased risk of obesity.

Staying Healthy Working Nights

Although there may be an increased chance of developing certain health problems if you work overnight, you may not have an option, or you may prefer nightshift. But all hope is not lost. If you are a nightshift healthcare traveler, there are many things you can do to stay healthy.

One of the most important things is to get the best sleep possible. Although it may be sunny out, you need to keep your bedroom dark. Sunlight encourages wakefulness, and that’s not what you want after working all night. Keep your bedroom as dark as possible while you are sleeping. Blackout curtains may be a big help.

Don’t forget that the world outside is still going on even though you want to sleep. Consider investing in a white noise machine or a fan to keep daytime sounds from waking you up. Earplugs are another option.

What you eat and drink can also interfere with getting proper rest. Although caffeine may be your best friend while trying to stay awake overnight, it is your enemy after work. Caffeine can stay in your system for hours after you drink it and prevent you from falling or staying asleep. Consider reducing the amount of caffeinated beverages you drink about three or four hours before the end of your shift.

Additionally, your best bet is to try to be consistent with your sleep cycle. If you work nights, avoid flip-flopping shifts and working dayshifts. Switching back and forth between days and nights is even harder on your system than just working nights.

Catching up on a little sleep on your days off may help you deal with any sleep deprivation you have. Although you probably don’t want to sleep all day when you do not have to work, allowing yourself a couple of extra hours can be restorative.

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