Is night shift healthier for some people?

  1. So I work days, which as a new RN can be difficult to get. I've worked a bit over a year.
    We're a busy floor. I am typically out late, between 4:30 - 5pm (supposed to be 7 - 330 shift). I usually am unable to get a lunch, so either don't eat, or eat worse than I'd like to when I get home. I usually get VERY hungry before bed, but try to avoid eating right before bed. I usually scarf down some breakfast. I never used to eat breakfast because it made me sick (nausea) but I would just be so hungry from not eating all day, so I made myself.

    Any who I've read through many topics here that state how unhealthy night shift can be on the body. I'm very health conscious. I feel like days isn't that healthy because of my eating habits. But will nights really increase my risk of hypertension/cancer/diabetes/weight gain/ etc??

    I'm only asking because I feel like I may be more nocturnal. For one I can eventually fall asleep whenever. But even on my days off when I wake at about 9am I want to take a nap by noon. I have a VERY hard time going to sleep before 2 am or so.

    I start to become really energized late in the evening like 8pm or so. I have an *extremely* hard time waking up in the morning. Even if I had 8 to 9 hours of sleep. I have to drag myself out of bed and am often sleepy until noon. Also the most stressful things for me on days - dealing with doctors, families, and lack of teamwork - is minimal on nights.

    I did a night shift once before and it was fine for me. But it was only one shift.

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    About s0ad

    Joined: Nov '10; Posts: 65; Likes: 58


  3. by   mvm2
    There are not many that function great on nights but some do. I have an aunt and a cousin that would not go to bed till around 3 or 4 in the morning. It just was what their body did. You might be great at nights. I think though too that if you are not eating properly you are going to feel tired a lot. Especially as much energy it takes to run around all day being a nurse. Be good to yourself and make sure you are eating and Drinking enough while at work. You might be surprised how better you will feelings
  4. by   amoLucia
    Maybe you might want to try a trial period of nite shifts??? With all the summer vacations here, maybe you could volunteer to do just a short SWITCH for co-worker who's on vaca. Typically, they're the toughest shifts to cover, so maybe you could win the heart of your scheduler if you volunteered. Day shift might be easier for her to cover.

    Use some excuse that you need some dayshift hours freed up as you have some chores/tasks to do. Only do just a short stretch as you may not want to give up your day shift and you don't want to give them any crazy ideas...

    I'm a nite shift person, for a loooong time. Die-hard nite shift people just learn to adapt and make it work for themselves individually. Each shift has its own unique problems, but I wouldn't want to go back to days for anything...
  5. by   meanmaryjean
    Caveat: this was the topic of my MSN thesis, and several ongoing research projects I am involved in.

    There is strong evidence that people are GENETICALLY 'larks' (morning people) or 'owls' (evening/ night people). From your natural tendencies, it sounds like you are an 'owl' and might do well on night shift.

    And yes, it is true that night shift workers have an increased RISK of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, cancer, obesity and accidental death.
  6. by   s0ad
    I was hoping to just give it a whirl first for a very short time to see if it would be a good fit.

    I just remembered that in school (Jr. high and HS) every time in the summer, I would go to sleep later, later, and later, and eventually I would be awake at night and sleeping during the day. I wish I knew how I felt otherwise to know if it worked for me. :P

    It just frightens me about the associated health risks. I always hear people saying how much better they feel on days vs nights but never vice versa, which concerns me.

    Eventually I'd like to get away from bedside nursing and do maybe public health or more teaching based stuff, which would be day shift things but I think even 9 - 5 or 8 - 4 would be a ton better than 7 - 3 and thought maybe nightshift would be better for me for the time being.
  7. by   weirdscience
    Ooh! Meanmaryjean, you're exactly the right person to speak to my question/comment, so I hope that you are following this thread. My original comment to the OP was going to be:

    I, too, am a night owl and have found myself better rested working nights than I ever was on days. I never get sleepy during my shift, as I used to during the midday slump working the day shift. I also don't find myself having difficulty sleeping during the day. I worked days for 12+ years and was miserable the entire time (not nursing, mostly office work.) This is the first job where I've had the opportunity to work with my normal body clock.

    Yes, there is the research that says that we night shift workers are at risk for a host of diseases and chronic conditions. However, all of the articles I've read have pointed out that a major contributing factor is the fatigue experienced by those who attempt to "flip" back to daytime living when not working. I don't have to do so, so I don't.

    The other thing commonly discussed in these articles is melatonin production. Your body typically makes the hormone at night when you sleep. I take a supplement as needed to get to sleep quickly during the day (maybe 2-3x a week at most.) I'm curious to know if this helps make up for it--seems like it should, at least some, right?!? And I'm also curious to know why your body wouldn't just start producing it during the day once it realized, "hey, this is when we sleep now."

    Meanmaryjane, having studied this more than I, perhaps you can answer some of my questions? I've been wondering for a while.
  8. by   weirdscience
    *MeanmaryJEAN, sorry!
  9. by   meanmaryjean
    This topic is my passion in life- in case you could not tell!

    As far as melatonin goes, it is produced whenever you sleep basically. Production is suppressed by sunlight hitting the retina. So if you are sleeping in a DARK room, you ARE producing melatonin during daytime sleep. Wearing sunglasses on the drive home- putting them on before you even walk outside the building, really helps with revving up melatonin production and sleep induction. Cortisol is secreted in exactly the opposite circadian pattern.

    A person working days gets 'anchor sleep'. Anchor sleep is the 4-6 hour period of time each and every 24 hour period where a day worker is ALWAYS asleep. Midnight to 5 am for example. Anchor sleep is an important part of overall health.

    The BEST approach to night work is staying on a night schedule 7 nights a week. Not practical for most of us, BUT it provides consistent anchor sleep. The NEXT best approach is to sleep 3-4am until noon-1pm on nights off. This allows you to have 'anchor sleep' as well.

    I'm actually doing a pilot project educating newly hired night shifters on HOW to work nights, and a second project on how institutional practices impact the sleep of night shift workers.
  10. by   s0ad
    The anchor sleep thing is very helpful - thank you!
  11. by   weirdscience
    Thanks for the follow-up info! That helps me a lot, too. Good to know I am handling the night shift schedule as healthfully as I can be. It helps a LOT not to have to flip.
  12. by   kcochrane
    One of those that thrive on nights. But I'm also one that stays on the same schedule even on my days off. My kids are grown, so it is easy for me. Most people that work with me either try to switch up on their days off or try to get by on less sleep so they can do more. As stated before, I think that's when you see the health issues arise. Some people can't do nights no matter what. Some people like me can't do days no matter what.
  13. by   calivianya
    Nights are so much healthier for me than days it's not even funny. It is definitely possible!

    I'm agreeing with the "anchor sleep" comment. I don't even understand why in the world anyone would try to switch their sleep schedules back to "day shift" when they're off for a few days... I've never tried it because I can't imagine the toll it would take on my body. There is nothing in the world worth that for me!
  14. by   meanmaryjean
    The reason people 'flip' is almost exclusively family. If you have young kids / husband / boyfriend and THEY are on a daytime schedule, you tend to miss a lot. I understand that- but having done the extreme day/night flipping for many years, and my more recent 'stay up 'til 0300' modification, I can tell you that anchor sleep is a wonderful thing! It's just that MY anchor sleep occurs from 0800-1200!

    I'm trying to get the moderators to start a specific forum for night workers. PLEASE contribute to some of the other threads I've started.

    OH- and I got an email last night accepting my abstract about my research for the 2013 Nursing Management Congress in Chicago this fall. Exciting, but I have to register for the conference, and it's PRICY Not sure if I'll be able to swing it (the danged hotel rooms are nearly $400/ night with taxes!)