While the majority of people sleep during these hours, certain people work through the night – this includes night shift nurses. Take the following into consideration:
- Patients may present to the hospital at any time of day or night.
- Patients admitted to hospital facilities require continuous monitoring.
- Certain medical situations may necessitate emergency procedures during the early morning hours.
These are just a few examples of why nurses are constantly needed, especially during non-traditional work hours. However, there are a few drawbacks to working night shifts.
Circadian Rhythmicity: An Overview
On a 24-hour basis, our body undergoes repeated physical, mental, and behavioral changes, referred to as the circadian rhythm. Although our bodies’ circadian cycles are pretty stable, as you may know, these rhythms are synchronized with environmental cues. This is referred to as entrainment, and daylight is the primary component affecting circadian rhythms.
We are specifically talking to the sleep-wake cycle in this article. This explains why we feel energized in the morning when we see the sunrise and sleepy when it gets dark. Your eyes provide information to the master clock, which is located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the brain. Then it instructs your brain to manufacture more melatonin, which induces sleepiness.
However, entrainment is a process that takes time. Indeed, entrainment is critical during the early stages of development. During fetal life, the pathway connecting the retina to the master clock is not entirely established. And the only way for the fetal clock to be in sync with the outer world is for it to receive melatonin from the mother.
If you abruptly get out of step with your environment, it will take time for your body to adjust. This time difference is referred to as desynchronosis, and it is also referred to as ‘jet lag’ or’shift lag.’ Due to the fact that this essay is not about time zone changes, we will concentrate on the shift lag.
Desynchronosis and Its Consequences in Shift Work
The term “shift work” has a variety of connotations depending on its context. It is defined here as employment that occurs between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. Working irregular night shifts or rotating schedules causes a condition known as desynchronosis. Shift work requires that you adjust your sleep-wake cycle. Adjustment attempts may be successful or unsuccessful, depending on the number of consecutive night shifts worked.
Certain variables can have an effect on sleep disorders and the body clock, as well as on family and social life. These include the following:
- Individual Distinctions
- Sleepers that are either long or short slept
- Individual who prefers to work in the morning or at night
- Difficulty sleeping at odd hours
- Difficulties sleeping in a new area
- Disparities in Organizations
- Rest spaces for breaks are readily available and of high quality.
- Workplace psychosocial conditions
- Severe weather
- Disparities in Situations
- Time spent commuting to and from work
- Types of activities that can be done during rest periods (Ex. having a second job or a physically demanding leisure activity)
Suggestions for Managing Night Shift Work
In the majority of circumstances, quitting night shift employment is not an option. As a result, it’s critical to anticipate and adjust to changes in your schedule. Consider the following strategies:
Management of Sleep
Your first focus should be on sleep management. Napping can be extremely beneficial, but only if it is used to prevent sleep debt rather than to make up for lost sleep. Additionally, workers who nap before to a night shift demonstrated increased alertness and superior performance on cognitive activities as compared to those who did not nap.
When Sleeping, Ambiance Modification
Another method for lulling oneself to sleep is to alter your environment. Utilize earplugs or white noise devices to reduce noise in and around your sleeping area. Additionally, keeping your room as dark as possible is essential — remember, light is the primary trigger for circadian rhythm! Additionally, you may choose to consider sleeping with eye masks and using sunglasses on your commute home from work.
A certain dose of bright light combined with the proper period of exposure can result in a considerable delay in the generation of melatonin. This prolongs the time required to fall asleep!
Melatonin is a hormone that our bodies make. While exogenous melatonin is commercially accessible and used to enhance sleep, it is well established that it has no significant physiological side effects when ingested. Melatonin has been shown in studies to assist avoid sleep deprivation while sleeping at the “wrong” circadian phase. This sedative effect is beneficial prior to or following your night shift work.
Manipulation of the Diet
It may also be good to create a routine for your protein and carbohydrate intake. Indeed, travelers traveling numerous time zones are frequently advised to follow a “jet lag diet.” Consume protein-rich foods before to periods of exercise and carbs prior to the sleep phase.
Have you devised a strategy to employ during your next night shift? Now is the time to create a reminder for yourself!