During the day, there are other chemicals, (neurotransmitters) that are released by the brain during the day to keep us awake. This system keeps us synchronized during the day-night cycle. Many other functions of the body including temperature, digestion, heart rate, and blood pressure fluctuate during the day, tuned by the activity of the circadian clock.
One of the important functions of this clock is maintaining body temperature. Body temperature is programmed to rise during the course of the day, reaching it's maximum level late in the afternoon, and drops to it's lowest level in the early hours (3-4 am) of the morning. As the body temperature rises, it makes it more difficult to stay asleep.
However, shift workers confuse their "clock" by working when their body is programmed to be sleeping. By working at night and sleeping during the day, these workers are running counter to their circadian rhythm---causing all kinds of health issues. When these workers are trying to fall asleep at 8:00 in the morning, their body temperature is on the rise making it extremely difficult to fall sleep and remain sleeping.
People working the night shift have a much higher risk of:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Mood swings
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Higher risk of motor vehicle accidents
- Increased likelihood of family problems, (high divorce rates)
- Increased risk of cancers, especially prostate and breast cancer
- Shift workers with diabetes have difficulty controlling their blood sugars
- Sleep deprivation caused by shift work may increase the risk of epilepsy in pre-disposed people
Studies have shown shift workers average about 2-3 hours less sleep than other workers. They often sleep through two split periods during the day----a few hours in the morning, and then again an hour or two prior to going into work. It takes about 10 days for the body to adjust for night shift work...however, when working a rotating shift most people have 2-3 days to adjust before switching sleep schedules....this type schedule keeps the circadian rhythm very unstable.
What's the solution? Well, short of quitting your job, one very important aspect that you do have control over is your DIET. Knowing that shift work increases the risk of obesity, heart disease, unstable blood sugars, etc., shift workers must be diligent in eating a high quality diet---a Whole Food Plant Based diet. A plant based diet will flood your body with all kinds of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that can fight off all the "turmoil" that takes place in our body, especially when we are going against how our body's programmed to operate.
By cutting out animal products, meat, fish, dairy, and processed foods, we are not adding to the increased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, etc. Plant foods have all the high quality nutrition our body is screaming for, and ZERO amounts of saturated fats, trans-fats, and artery clogging cholesterol. Instead, by eating a WFPB diet, we are giving our body the ammunition it needs to support our body in times of need, (working the midnight shift).
I am not saying this is the answer to all sleep-deprived people...of course working during the day and sleeping during the night is optimal for everyone, but, given the circumstances, what we put in our mouth is one area we do have control over. Knowing that shift work can increase the risk of heart disease and obesity, feeding ourselves animal products and processed foods will only make the risk even higher.
There is no reason why anyone should not follow a Whole Food Plant Based diet. It is the OPTIMAL diet for everyone...especially so for all you shift workers out there..........