The night shift is an absolute necessity in the industrial world – nearly 15 million Americans work a permanent third-shift job or regularly rotate on a night shift. But that change in working time doesn’t come without hazards – sleepiness, fatigue, decreased attention and disruption of the metabolic process are just a few. Here’s what you can do to make sure you’re as alert as possible on the night shift. 

Disrupt the Natural Rhythm

Our bodies are used to resting after dark and being recharged when the sun comes up. When you work the night shift, your body’s natural rhythm is disrupted and can cause a number of changes to your health, regardless of how much you sleep during the day. If you’re not alert and you’re expected to operate heavy machinery, like a truck or a forklift, you’re risking your safety and your coworkers’ safety. 

Decreased Cognitive Function

Warped schedules and consequent fatigue causes night-shift workers to have a greater attention deficit and be more impulsive than daytime workers. An inability to concentrate and plan ahead means taking abrupt actions that others are unprepared for, possibly causing injuries. Not only are they taking risks and making poor decisions, they’re also dealing with worsened moods and an increased risk of serious conditions like heart disease and cancer. 

Treat the Symptoms

As long as you’re working, night shift jobs won’t go away, so you have to figure out a way to adapt to these schedules. There are many ways to combat the fatigue that comes with third-shift work. You can treat the symptoms of fatigue with caffeine pills, coffee and energy drinks during the work shifts and sedatives when it’s time to sleep during the day. However, you should be wary about becoming dependent on some of these options. 

Adjust the Rhythm

You can try to shift your circadian rhythm, which isn’t easy to do. If you’re successful, you can shift it by one to two hours per day, meaning that it might take several weeks to fully adjust. You should try to work under extremely bright lights and sleep in the darkest possible room. Use room-darkening curtains, wear sunglasses on your way home and try to refrain from exposure to blue light from TV and phone screens before you lay down to sleep.

Agree to Compromise

Even if you’re able to manage this adjustment successfully, on your days off, your body will be pressured to revert back to a normal schedule – particularly if you have a family or roommates who sleep at night and are up during the day. A good compromise is to go to sleep as late as possible on your days off, maybe 3 a.m., and sleep until noon. Then, on a workday, operate under bright lights and go to sleep as early as possible in a darkened room. This way, there’s not a huge differential between workdays and off days. Cognitive tests given to workers who tried the compromise approach and workers who fully adjust their circadian rhythms to the nightshift schedules.

Maintaining your health around the clock is critical when you’re trusted to operate machinery and work in potentially-dangerous areas. Starting a new job on the night shift can lead to a difficult adjustment period, but with the right approach you can get up to speed on your new schedule in no time.

Looking for night shift jobs that will fit your life and your needs? Working the night shift has its benefits, and with the right preparation you can be successful in that position. Contact ICR Staffing Services, a staffing agency in Victorville, CA to learn more.

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