What do office cleaners, some factory workers, firefighters, paramedics, police officers, nurses and doctors have in common? They are all in jobs that involve shift work. Working nontraditional hours is par for the course for a significant percentage of the Illinois workforce who works rotating shifts or permanent night shifts.

Whether you work the night shift because you want to or because you have to, it could harm your heart, brain and more. Your body is programmed to sleep when it is dark and work when it is daytime. Going against your internal clock gives rise to several health hazards.

Circadian rhythm

Working night shift goes against your circadian rhythm, which is the name for a part of your body’s software. The preprogramming of your body works as follows:

  • Your internal clock makes your body go into a rest phase when the sun sets and the moon rises.
  • Night shift can make you sleepy, hungry, distracted and grumpy — all because you attempt to circumvent your circadian rhythm.
  • Working at night can cause metabolism problems because most of the digestion of your food takes place during the night when the body rests.
  • You can develop sleep disorders, which could, in turn, lead to illness, mental impairment and fatigue.

Working while sleep-deprived puts you at a higher risk for work-related injuries.

Mental health hazards

If you have to sleep while everyone in your household is up and busy with daytime activities, you are highly susceptible to the following:

  • You might feel irritable, cranky and sluggish immediately after working through the night as the night shift is known to pose mental health risks.
  • The lack of sufficient rest can cause impaired motor skills, slowed reflexes, lapses in judgment and reduced cognitive function.

The ambient sounds of daytime can prevent you from going into a deep sleep, which is crucial to avoid the development of a sleep disorder.

Physical health hazards

Along with the increased rate of accidents and occupational injuries associated with the night shift, the following health risks also come with working night shifts:

  • Going against your body’s natural circadian rhythms puts you at an increased risk for cancer and heart disease.
  • A study by the American Psychological Association reported that circumventing the circadian rhythm causes increased levels of glucose, elevated triglyceride levels and high blood pressure.
  • The result could be diabetes, heart disease and other health consequences.

Night shift can be especially hazardous if you frequently go with less than six hours of quality sleep.

Mitigating the risks

To limit the risks, it would be sensible to create a schedule for getting proper, restful daytime sleep and stick to it. Health authorities also recommend you avoid nicotine, caffeine and other stimulants during the last few hours of your night shift. Making healthy diets and exercising a part of your lifestyle can also help you to remain healthy even if you work the night shift.

Workers’ compensation

If you become a victim of a sleep disorder or any other night shift-related health issue, you will likely be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits to cover your medical expenses and lost wages. However, proving it to be work-related might not be easy. This is where the skills of an experienced workers compensation attorney can be invaluable. A lawyer can provide support and guidance that will simplify the entire process to obtain maximum benefits under applicable laws.