What are the risks of night work on health and how to protect yourself?
Who is involved in night work?
The night work, whose hours can go from 21h to 6h, concerns 15.4% of employeesabout 20% of men and 10% of women. The most represented professional sectors are vehicle drivers, police officers, the military, nurses and nursing assistants. In addition to being most of the time compelling and tiring, night work also has harm to health, has an impact on the social life and on family life.
Decreased alertness and disturbed sleep
A report by ANSES *, the National Agency for Food Safety, Environment and Labor, points to the impact on the quantity and quality of sleep.
Individuals working in staggered hours experience some difficulty falling asleep during the day: daylight, higher daytime noise, family obligations and social rhythms prevent an effective and restful nap. A bad sleep causes a drop in vigilance, concentration, and increases risk of having an accident at work, and on the way home.
Effects on mental health
With night work, the biological clock is disturbed. This alteration causes "probably", according to the INRS, attacks on mental health. "The direct involvement of alterations of the circadian system (biological events that take place periodically every 24 hours, editor's note) - and therefore potentially night work - in the development of mental pathologies is currently put forward in some studies ", note the handles. Among these disorders:
Potential weight gain
Night work has an influence on the metabolismwhich can promote overweight and obesity. Studies cited by ANSES suggest that people deprived of sleep, especially because of night work, would tend to eat more sugar for a "compensatory" effect.
There would also be an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, cholesterol, blood pressure. Night work is also linked to the risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as myocardial infarction.
Risk of cancer and complications during pregnancy
These working hours could increase the risk of developing certain types of cancers, including that of the prostate but especially that of the breast. In addition, exposure to this type of time can cause pregnant women to complications during pregnancy : with an increased risk of spontaneous abortion, premature delivery or intrauterine growth retardation.
Impact on personal life
Working at night can also have repercussions on social life, especially romantic relationships. "With a limited time of meeting and sharing, an alteration of conjugal relations, from the sex life, the emergence of imbalances in family functioning more strongly felt by their spouses than by the employees themselves ", adds the report. "These difficulties can also be translated into term, by psychological disturbances related to guilt, the frustration, the recurrence of inter-conjugal tensions and disorders of the state of health ".
How to protect oneself from these harmful effects on health?
To preserve its quality of sleep and to avoid weight gain, it is advisable to:
- sleep more than 7 hours per 24h
- avoid excitement during the last 5 hours of work
- take breaks with a rest or nap of less than 30 minutes
- limit exposure to light at the end of the shift
- to sleep in the dark and absolute silence
- respect 3 meals a day
- do not snack or skip meals
- have a full breakfast
- to eat protein before taking post
- eat a light meal favoring carbohydrates after work
* Sources: INRS
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