The bodies circadian rhythms regulate when we should eat, sleep, and be active. Human beings are designed to be day-functioning. Physiology predisposes people to sleep at night when it is dark and to be alert in the daytime. Having to work at times when your body is designed to be resting is not easy, and the body clock never permanently changes to accommodate a different sleep/wake cycle, even in long-term shift workers. This change can threaten an employee's sense of comfort and control and creates stress. Excessive overtime, shift or any work that that requires night work causes the body to work against its natural physiology, which subsequently increases the potential for both physical and emotional stress as the body has to adapt to circumstances for which it was never designed.

Stabilising / managing these body rhythms is essential to well being, with a good diet and lifestyle being vital aspects of this.

Shift Workers

Research indicates that shift-workers have an average of 14 sick and absent days per year, comparing unfavourably with the 7-8 day average found in a 9-to-5 workplace, so it is important that a proactive 'wellness program' is emphasised for shift workers because they will be exposed to the additional stress and fatigue of their shifts and it is essential that they are as healthy as possible to face these additional challenges.

Unfortunately, shift workers also tend to have poorer lifestyle and dietary habits. They tend to smoke more and exercise less, and sleep disorders are much more common as shift workers have poorer quality and quantity of sleep regardless of the shift they are on. For example the excessive use of caffeine may help to keep an employee alert at night, but it can cause digestive disorders and make good quality sleep more difficult to achieve.

After sleep problems, gastrointestinal disorders are the most frequently recorded symptoms among shiftworkers, with up to 75% complaining of appetite disturbances, bowel problems, dyspepsia, abdominal pains and heart burn, compared to approximately 25% of 9 - 5 workers.

Wellness programs benefit all employees, they need to be emphasised for shift workers and any Human Resource strategy should include education upon

  • How to protect sleep, to allow for both sufficient quality and quantity
  • Dietary guidance to help combat fatigue and sustain energy levels, both mentally and physically
  • Appropriate lifestyle recommendations to highlight common factors which can negatively impact upon a shift workers health and safety

If you are part of an organisation that interested in the health and well-being of their employees and may be interested hosting health and well-being workshops or seminars, then contact Nutriology for a no-obligation consultation