Night shifts: burning the candle at both ends

Dr Shivani Sachdev Gour
Compromised safety (while commuting) and several occupational health risks- night-shift workers face a double whammy. According to Dr Shivani Sachdev, gynaecologist and infertility expert, SCI Healthcare, New Delhi, a study by the World Health Organization, or WHO, has work for long durations on nigh shifts have a 48% higher chance of contracting breast cancer. They suffer from abnormally low secretion of sleep hormone melatonin, which also has a protective effects against cancer. So much so that the Danish government has to offered compensation to women who may be affected by such a lifestyle. About 40 women have already been given such compensation. In addition, studies show that women on night shifts face other risks such a low—weight babies and longer pregnancies. 
Other problems that night-shift workers face: sleep apnea, digestive disorders, stress, relationship problem. According to Samir Parikh, head of department, mental health, Max Healthcare, New Delhi, the tendency to smoke and use alcohol is also higher among shift workers. 

Mitigate damage 

  • Avoid night shifts over long durations; rotate shifts
  • Make a special effort to regulate diet and exercise
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco
  • Given the safety risks associated with commuting at night, urge employers to have overnighting/sleeping facilities at the workplace (old-timers recall how women telephone operators, in the pre-STD days when  trunk calls were the norm, had dorming arrangements in Delhi’s telephone exchanges. Nurses and lady doctors often sleep over at hospitals after night duty as well.)