Tag Archives: sleep deprivation


With the recent “Spring Forward” change to “Daylight Saving Time” for certain areas, it makes us wonder if the hour’s difference affects those who work on shifts.  It would seem that getting up an hour earlier might be the worst part of it.  However, those who work day shifts would get home an hour earlier than usual, but the night shift folks have to adjust as well.

It has always seemed that the “graveyard” shift would be the hardest, but there are certain people who love to work during those hours.  If you are considering changing to night shift work, it means you’ll be awake when other folks are snoozing, and trying to sleep when most of the world is active.  Some folks take well to the transition, but it can take time and effort on your part.

Here are some of the jobs that include shifts, and we’ll take a look at what health effects may be involved:

  • Nurses
  • E.R. Physicians
  • Manufacturing plant employees
  • Pilots
  • Airline attendants
  • Ground crews
  • Air Traffic Controllers
  • Convenience store employees
  • Police
  • Firemen
  • EMT Rescue Teams
  • Trucking
  • Miners
  • Military

You may be able to name many others, but these are among the busy folks that work day and night, through shift work.  Our military forces must be on the alert all the time, 24/7, and we mentioned them because of the stress factors they face.  Police, firemen, rescue teams are also under much stress.  Firemen work shifts that require them to be on the premises for 48 hours, then off 48 hours, etc.  This may take away from the rest they try to get, because of noise going on in the firehouse.  Earplugs would be of help to them!  They also have a greater risk of injury and metabolic syndrome.

Airports are some of the busiest areas in the world; anyone involved with working for an airline will tell you there is plenty of stress on their job, night or day!  Weather delays, controlling flights, getting passsengers safely to their destinations, can be telling on the health of pilots and other employees.  Lack of sleep is one of the obstacles that have caused problems for pilots.

Laws forbid long-haul truckers to log over a certain amount of driving hours, but they are under pressure to get their loads to a certain spot at a designated time, causing them to try to go a little farther down the road.  Miners are certainly under a strain, to say the least, regardless of the shift they work.  It’s dark in those mines; of course they are well-lit, but miners face so many hazards on a daily basis.

It is a proven fact that long hours + overtime + short sleep (less than 6 hours per day) = depression, injuries, and poor health.  If you decide to take a job that requires shift work and changes your routine, go to your physician and get a good checkup to ensure that your body is healthy enough to adapt.  Be sure you eat the right kinds of food and exercise, as well as take breaks regardless of the shift you work.  It is a fact that night shift is a little harder on the body, so take care of yourself and stay healthy and safe.




Sorry, friends, but  I slept through this national observance, which was March 5th through 11th!  Last week was exceptionally busy, with out-of-town guests, and being away from my desk a day or two.  I do apologize, but it’s never too late to talk about how important sleep is to everyone – no matter how young or old you are!  Sleep profoundly affects our health and safety.  Just this past Sunday, those of us in parts of the United States reset our clocks forward one hour, losing one hour of sleep.  Experts have said that more early morning car accidents occur the first week after “springing ahead”, because that earlier hour means it’s darker.  The same holds true when we set our clocks back one hour in November, when accidents happen more frequently because it gets darker earlier than we are accustomed to.  

March 2 and 3rd, the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Health & Safety 2012 convention took place in downtown Washington, D.C., at the JW Marriott Hotel.  Causes of sleep deprivation were examined from both clinical and public health perspectives.  They offered two tracks – a Health Care Professional Track targeted to primary care physicians that provides CME credits for physicians and health care professionals, and a Public Health Safety Track targeted to public health, transportation, and safety professionals, as well as government officials and sleep researchers.  It will be interesting to read their findings. 

Many Americans are sacrificing their sleep health by working longer into the night.  Thousands of fatigue-related car crashes occur each year.  Many persons have sleep disorders, and most go undiagnosed and untreated.  The National Sleep Foundation recommends that U.S. adults receive on average, 7 – 9 hours of sleep per night.  It is reported, however, that 37.1 per cent of adults say they sleep less than seven hours per night.  Persons reporting sleeping less than 7 hours on average during a 24-hour interval are more likely to report unintentionally falling asleep during the day at least 1 day out of the preceding 30 days, and nodding off or falling asleep at the wheel during the previous 30 days.  Frequent insufficient sleep (14 or more days in the past 30 days) also has been associated with self-reported anxiety, depressive symptoms, and frequent mental and physical distress.  This suggests the need for greater awareness of the importance of sufficient sleep.

Sleep deprivation is one of the most common disorders affecting one-fourth of all Americans.  Those most prone to the effects of sleep deprivation are those late shift or night shift workers, which has been nicknamed the “graveyard shift.”  This name has been assumed for good reason if you understand the large amount of adverse effects sleep deprivation has on late shift workers.  The most helpful thing these folks should know is understanding the natural sleep cycle in humans.  The sleep cycle is dependent on the number of factors, including melatonin, a hormone, which reacts to stimulation from the suprachiasmic nucleus within the brain. (Caught on yet?)  Melatonin has a drowsiness inducing effect on the mind and body and it is secreted when the light begins to dim naturally at the end of each day.  It is only logical to assume that night workers will feel drowsy and sleepy on the job, but bright lights in the work place help to reduce and inhibit melatonin release.  Late shift workers still need at least six hours of sleep to remain healthy.  Sleeping only four hours or less is not enought to sustain good human health.  We all know when we are fatigued, we are more likely to have a workplace accident.

Here is an easy test you can try if you believe you are sleep deprived.  Simply go into a very dark room with a place to recline.  You only need to seclude yourself in a dark room with a reclining chair or bed and close your eyes.  If you can stay awake for 15 minutes, you are not sleep deprived; however, if you find yourself nodding off after only a matter of 5-10 minutes, you are most likely sleep deprived.  It is important to take this tet during the time of day or night when you are usually awake.  There are many steps you can take to get your daily (or nightly) right amount of sleep, as well as eating healthy foods and exercising. 

Now, if someone could just explain to me why I can relax and go to sleep early in the evening in front of the television, then have trouble going to sleep later, it would really help.  Maybe I just answered the question – don’t take catnaps before bedtime!  I hope the sandman visits you when you need to sleep!