Chronically working in night shifts can have a negative impact on mental and physical health. Lack of sleep makes one more vulnerable to stress, anxiety and lethargic. Reduced sleep leads to reduced concentration, poor ability to solve problems and difficulties in managing crisis situations.

By Balaji Subramanian

This can lead to low self esteem, anxiety and if chronic then depression as well. Lack of exposure to sun can lead to ‘vitamin D deficiency’ which also affects the mood.

According to Bangalore based Consultant psychiatrist and psychotherapist Dr. Ashlesha Bagadia who specializes in mental health disorders, “Day workers tend to use the evening time to unwind, can avail natural resources like parks or lakes during the daytime, spend time with family, play outdoors with friends etc. But night workers tend to unwind during morning hours usually by watching TV, online shows or sleeping. Their access to organised social or sporting events are reduced, hence they don’t get to unwind and de-stress as others do. Altered routine of eating and tendency to binge on snacks can also affect mental health.”

Bangalore based physiotherapist Dr V Raja who primarily deals with patients who have serious back problems and joint pain says, “When an individual works night shift on a regular basis it is necessary they do regular exercise at a gym or play sports like badminton because it keeps the muscles strong. Most of my patients work in call centers and are in their twenties.”

Raja also stressed those who do night shifts do not get ‘REM sleep’ which is important because REM sleep is associated with increased production of proteins and it is one of the important aspects of staying healthy.

Both specialists agree, when a person does not get natural sleep rhythms, it can lead to serious physical ailments like heart problems, change in metabolism due to changes in eating patterns which can have an impact on increased weight gain or weight loss. On the psychological aspect many individuals find it very difficult to maintain a social life i.e. ‘Work-Life Balance’.

It is necessary for companies, particularly contact centers that employ young people to ensure there is proper shift rotation and a healthy diet is served in the office cafeteria. It is refreshing many companies have started to take the physical and mental health of their employees very seriously because Chronic night shift is a serious health problem.