The world would be a beautiful place if all of us got the opportunity to do the 9-6 job! Alas, that’s not how we are meant to function as per our demands and wishes. Even if such a scenario existed virtually, then what about security, law and order, emergency hospital cases, safeguarding lockers and banks and ultimately, our job commitments? Call them black sheep, scape goats, exceptional cases or by any other name, there are a handful of people in every sector who dedicate their knowledge as well as a share of their health in fulfilling job requirements. Many of us or our friends regularly do night shifts due to work commitments or lust of extra pay. But, the price we pay for this cannot be compensated.
24×7 Work Support
We are turning out to be a 24*7 society with about 15-30% of the people working outside business hours amongst which almost half of them do night shifts. Try to get a night-shift worker’s opinion on health and concentration, any of them would instantly reply that night shift work compromises cognitive capability, contributes towards insufficient sleep and rest and leads to numerous health problems such as sleep disturbances, gastro-intestinal disorders, cancer and metabolic disorders such as obesity, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Any shift job, especially night shifts can be a challenging task for people with diabetes as the haphazard routines can affect both mealtimes and medication schedules. The different shift schedules can affect the individual’s ‘body clock’ due to varying sleep patterns. The circadian rhythm regulates metabolism and any changes in this rhythm can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. Our body has an internal body clock that adjusts itself according to daylight and darkness and shift work can alter this clock due to changes in the time you eat, sleep, stress levels and other physiological changes. All these can affect blood sugar levels which causes problems with both hyperglycemia (too much blood sugar) and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
Shift Work Affects People with Type 2 Diabetes
A new study finds that people with diabetes who work night shifts have poorer control over their blood sugar levels than those who work in dayshifts or are unemployed. The researchers analyzed data of more than 270,000 individuals in the United Kingdom and found that those who worked irregular or rotational shifts that included night shifts were 44% likelier to have type 2 diabetes than others who worked regular hours. This is also one of the first studies to show a positive association between number of night shifts and the associated risk of diabetes. For example, working night shifts less than thrice a month increases the risk of diabetes by 24% whereas working night shifts more than eight times a month increases the risk by 36%.
The surprise element here is that individuals doing permanent night shifts were not at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes maybe because they adapt their sleep-eat routines as per night shift requirements or they were naturally ‘night owls’ who could stay awake all night.
Nothing is Impossible
You have got a job and that’s great news in this recession-filled markets these days. But, you must work on midnight shifts which keeps you doubtful about pursuing the job. Sometime back, shift jobs were a pain for people on insulin and diabetes pills. Modern science and advancements have given us with ample opportunities including rapid-acting synthetic insulins which function as closely as what insulin in the pancreas normally does. After all this, even when your diabetes is under control, it is likely that you might suffer from bouts of lower blood sugar levels despite taking insulin or certain diabetes pills. That’s mostly because of mental and physical stress due to shift work that has a strong impact on the body’s circadian rhythms.
Once you are definite about your night shifts and cannot avoid it by any means, it is better that you reduce health risks by eating a healthy diet, maintaining healthy weight ranges and leading an active lifestyle.
Plan Your Meals
Any shift work can disturb mealtimes and make meal planning a difficult task. Despite hurdles, snacking on healthy foods and sticking by your shift, meal schedules can help to keep diabetes under control. Try to prepare most of your meals at home as this ensures you of nutritious foods. Such meal preparations require advance planning which can be done over the weekend as it also becomes easier to purchase the required ingredients too. Also, breaks and snacks are important for all, especially for those on diabetes pills and insulin. Rather than buying some empty-calorie snacks to munch from outside, it is greatly appreciated if you can carry some healthy snacks such as sprouts, fruits or salads. It is always better to get the opinion of specialists such as registered dietitian nutritionists (specializing in diabetes) at www.firsteatright.com who can help to plan your meals and snacks keeping your health foremost in mind.
Keep physical activity schedules outside work hour routines. It might seem awkward initially to workout mid-afternoons or early evenings, but it is always better to work out sometime of the day than to stay idle. Try various permutations and stick to the new schedule that best fits your daily routine. Such daily exercises are not only good for your glucose levels but also work great on your heart health and mental health too.
The worst-affected daily routine due to irregular work timings is sleep. Night shifts can throw your sleep routines off track and totally collapse sleep quality. Such disturbed sleep can impact sugar levels and conversely, also high or low blood sugar levels can have a strong impact on sleep. Some tips to improve your sleep include:
Avoid stimulants such as drinking caffeine drinks, smoking, exercising or doing strenuous housework as all these tasks can have stimulating effects on your body. When such activities are performed right before hitting the bed, it can disrupt sleep and make it difficult for you to fall asleep.
Prepare your sleeping room to be dark, devoid of sounds, serene and such that you are likelier to fall asleep quickly. You can buy a sleep mask or ear plugs to cancel out any noises.
Don’t use electronic gadgets before bed as it can confuse your brain whether it is daytime or nighttime. By staying away from all other activities except lying down on your bed, you are sure to drowse off into sleep.
Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation to keep your mind at peace and improve your sleep quality.
Even for people without diabetes night shift can strain a person’s health. All shifts create strain, but nightshifts are the worse and the most stressful time to work. Forward-moving rotational shifts (morning-afternoon-night shift cycle) that happen every 2-3 days are better than ones that change from night-afternoon-morning shifts. Whatever shift you might work, never miss on your rest and activity schedules.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.