The world of today is characterized by a wide variety of changes, and the workplace is one of the places that has seen great changers. Alteration of time schedules in terms of the time people work is a factor of many organizations today. Working at night in the form of night shifts has become very common today. However, this is still a new aspect of employment, and there is little research about its implications on the health of employees as well as the family dynamics. The reason for increased diversity in the scheduling of work today is mainly attributed to increased aspect of working part time whereby people seek employment at nontraditional shifts with the aim of increased pay or a better working schedule in addition to having another full-time job. Another factor associated with the diversity is attributed to the need to have a flexible schedule for many workers whereby they get the chance to make a choice on their own working schedule which is best suited to their performance. Apart from the above, there are also other forms of employment that necessitate alternate forms of work schedule such as nursing and other medical profession. These are professions that require health practitioners on a twenty-four-hour basis, and therefore, employees have to operate on schedules that are nontraditional in order to ensure full operation (TAUSIG, 2001). Despite these forms of development and changes in work schedules, there is the need to find out the implications that these nontraditional work schedules have on the employees. This paper will try to find out the physical, psychological implications that working at nontraditional hours have on them. It will also explore social factors that include the effects on family and other forms of changes in life.
One of the biggest conclusions made is that working in night shifts and other noonday shifts have negative implications on the health of an individual. These negative implications are mostly associated with consequences that affect the physical, social and psychological wellbeing of the individuals. These implications are mostly attributed to factors of the hours spent in non-day shifts and the lack of control over work schedule which has effects on family relations of the individuals. Nightshift is most of the time considered undesirable and therefore, cause harmful effects to workers because of their physical, psychological and social changes that they bear on them. This is usually contrary to the normal working schedules for which most people operate in. Night shift and other non-day shifts have been associated with the development of coronary diseases, whereby there is a high likelihood of developing such diseases for people working in non-day shifts and other rotating shifts. Apart from coronary heart problems Shift work has also been associated with neurotic disorders as well as gastrointestinal problems (Shift work, 2017).
Shift work has been greatly linked with problems associated with the circadian rhythm of the heart. At night the circadian rhythm is at its lowest, and this is the time where most shift works are most common. They then go to sleep early in the morning, but the rhythm wakes them up and results in them having no sleep because of the active rhythm which is during the day when most of these people try to rest. Because of this rhythm, working at night is usually associated with a lot of sleepiness and highly reduced performance because it is when the rhythm is lowest. (Shift work, 2017)
This is a rhythm that is mostly associated with sleeping cycles and is very important for resting. It is usually a homeostatic function of the body that helps in the regulation of sleep and provides an opportunity for the body to rest, it is a function that strikes a balance between sleep which is usually at night and wakefulness which is during day time. The cycle allows people to be active during the do to perform their daily functions and makes people sleep and rest at night after a long day of work. This is usually the normal cycle of the circadian rhythm. The rhythm acts as an internal clock that regulates the timings for sleep and that of waking up for people (Shift work, 2017).
It occurs in the form of dips and rises whereby when the rhythm dips people start to fell sleepy, and this starts to happen later on in the day while at night the rhythm begins to rise close to dawn when people are close to waking up in the morning. There occur changes in the rhythm especially for teens with a form of sleep delay that makes it difficult for them to sleep before 11 p.m. Because of school schedules in the morning which are usually very early, most teens find it very hard to wake up early in the morning, and this is because of a delay in sleep phase within the circadian rhythm (Circadian rhythm, 2017).
Teens usually have a dip in the rhythm at around 3 am which can extend up to 9 am depending on the amount of sleep the teens have received. This internal clock that exists naturally in our body is associated with the work of a group of specialized cells known as the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus that occur in the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is a part of the brain, and the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus is a group of cells that are highly responses to changes in light and darkness conditions associated with day and night. They are connected to the eye by the optic nerve through which light travels into the eye through the optic nerves and to the cell. Light and darkness conditions send signals to the cells, and the cells initiate the clock mechanism of the body (Shift work, 2017).
The cells are also responsible for signaling other parts of the body from which hormones are produced and function to initiate the functions of sleep and wake in the body. For example signals of light through the eye reach the Suprachiasmatic nucleus and signals the body to produce hormones such as cortisol, that helping regulating the body temperature specific for waking up. The cells also inhibit production of hormones such as melatonin which are associated with initiating sleep in the body. On the other hand, the vice versa occurs whereby, dark conditions of the night stimulates the cells and lead to the production of melatonin and at the same time inhibit the production of cortisol. In teenagers, the delayed phase in sleep is usually in the timing for production of cortisol in the body which is usually delayed until later in the night and this is what causes delayed sleep (Circadian rhythm, 2017).
The circadian rhythm is a very important rhythm in the body and is a body’s evolutionary function that is responsive to light and darkness associated with day and night. Disruption to this rhythm is attributed to many factors, and one of the common factors is shift work. Working at night shift completely turns around the sleeping cycle and completely works against the circadian rhythm. With people working in night shift, when the rhythm is low is when they are most active and when the rhythm is on the rise that is when they sleep. This is usually confusing for the body because the function is altered by the differing sleeping cycle. The body tries to force the brain to alter the pattern of hormone release and is associated with poor performance and difficult thinking (Circadian rhythm, 2017).
The alteration in the body functions caused by shift working especially for people working night shift result to health implications especially in it occurs for a long period of time. This is because, the hormones and other body functions releases for the purpose of sleep and waking up do not function as they should and are, therefore, released by the body for nothing. Another implication is that working in night shift limits the body from having adequate rest because when people try to sleep when the rhythm is on a rise which is during the day, it initiates a wake mechanism that hinders them from sleeping and they stay awake. They fail to have enough rest when they should. At night on the other hand when they are supposed to be active, the cycle is usually on a dip, and this initiates sleep. The lack of sleep during the day and the feeling of sleepiness during the night escalate the problems, and it results in fatigue, which is associated with poor productivity and performance (Circadian rhythm, 2017).
As explained above, changes in circadian rhythm caused by alterations in sleeping as a result of shift work have a lot of adverse effects on cardiovascular system because of the alteration in hormonal balances in the body. Neurohormonal activation sin the body lead to the development of hormones such as cortisol and catecholamine which affecting the functioning of the heart by changing the heart rate, blood pressure, sugar metabolism in the and other important functions that are crucial to the health and general wellbeing of a person. The above are some of the direct effects of shift works. However, there are other indirect consequences that later on develop to risk factor of cardiovascular disorder, and they include sleep disorder, poor eating habits, change in personality and other psychological consequences of shift work, these are more indirect risk factors that can result to development of cardiovascular disorder in people involved in shift work especially associated with working at night.
The relationship between cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, angina pectoris as well as myocardial infarction has been defined by many research which has found many complaints from shift workers in relation to these diseases and especially as their age passes on. Age is a factor because of the risk factors also increases and chances of developing these conditions become too high. Another aspect is associated with the relationship between mortality and shift workers whereby shift workers, especially for the night shift, have a higher chance of dying especially because of arteriosclerotic heart conditions than day workers (Costa, 1996).
The truth of the matter is than man is a diurnal being with activities divided into two parts of a day. During the day man is active and carries out all the activities and during the night is the time for sleep and rest. This is a rhythm function that reflects all the other factors of people’s life. Shift work forces people to adjust they activity and rest cycle to meet the needs of an active night and an inactive day.
However, these adjustments are most of the time insufficient because they do not completely invert and this is a factor that causes a continuous accumulation of stress and because of the inability of the body to recover from the altered rhythmic cycles of activeness and rest. These are aspects that greatly affect people’s health and working capacity because the buildup of stress leads to the development of what is mostly termed as shift lag which is a term borrowed by the alteration in the circadian rhythmic cycle cause by air travel and known as the jet lag syndrome. Shift lag syndrome occurs in the same manner and workers have their performance greatly affected because of the alteration in their sleep cycle (Shift work, 2017).
The cycle mostly affects sleep which is often reduced especially deep sleep which is very important for recovering from fatigue. Other aspects of sleep are associated with people who work in the early morning shift. This results to the interruption of the early morning sleep which marks the end of sleep. It is important because it is the paradoxic sleep that is greatly associated with the psychological well-being of a person. The above interruption of crucial aspects of sleep may lead to the development of sleep disorders as well as other neurological problems that may lead to poor psychological well-being (Costa, 1996).
They also lead to increased anxiety, fatigue, depression and other psychological problems that end up with the need for drugs in order to stabilize and have a healthy life. It is a problem that develops into a vicious cycle that adds other problems such as gastrointestinal diseases, as well as cardiovascular diseases (Shift work, 2017).
Poor eating habits digestive disorders
Poor eating habits are associated with changes in sleep cycle develop and affect the general well-being of shift workers. Shift work often alters the timing for eating and develop as a result of the development of the routine of not having a proper meal.
This is usually a factor of lack of access to quality food associated with eating while at work during night shifts rather than the normal eating habit associated with a full course meal at home with family. Shift working especially at night is associated with unhealthy eating especially in relation to fast foods and unhealthy foods. Most people in night shifts do not have adequate time to have good meals and rely on small canteens for a small meal with little nutritional value, and they mostly take them while in a hurry.
The changes in eating habits also alter the way people eat during the day, and this is in relation to the time of sleep most of the time, they miss crucial times for eating healthy meals, and the cycle continues and develops into an eating disorder. The changes in eating habits may also develop into digestive problems that may lead to disorders. They may include changes in appetite, constipation, bowel movements that are irregular, heart burns and abdominal pains. They may also develop chronic conditions such as ulcers, and gastritis (Costa, 1996).
Other negative implications of shift work are associated with accidents and errors at work attributed to power performance and lack of concentration because of working at night. This is a factor that greatly affects the efficiency in performance at the workplace, and these workers are very prone to accidents and errors by the reduction in physiological and physical activity especially at night (TAUSIG, 2001).
Risks to women
Shift work has had a lot of influence on the well-being of women. This is mainly associated with hormonal imbalances that alter their periodic hormonal cycles which influence their reproductive functions. In addition to physiological problems, women have a harder time in terms of pressure associated with balancing between work which is mostly shift work and domestic duties because of their great roles at home.
For instance, women who are married, have children and work at night have a shorter sleeping time because of high rates of interruptions during their day sleep (TAUSIG, 2001). They are associated with cumulative fatigue, depression and poor health as compared to men and other women who not married and have no children. These changes in sleep cycle coupled with changes in physiological factors add other complications that alter their menstrual cycle and their overall fertility. They have also been associated with problems with delivery, abortions. Low birth weight and preterm delivery (Costa, 1996).
According to research, a great number workers in the United States associated with shift form of work have been linked to the use of tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and heavy drinking. They are also associated with the use of indigestion medicine, and a lot of job stress and depression in both men and women. Night workers have been associated with a great prevalence of digestive disorders, sleeping problem and a disrupted social life. Despite these findings, shift work continues to be an important aspect of many organization whereby operations occur around the clock. These organization, therefore, have to take good considerations of the risks associated with workers doing their job at night because it is a factor that affects the general performance of employees in organizations.
They are factors that are affecting the health and wellbeing of employees and re reducing the quality of their lives by deteriorating their physical health, psychological well-being, and their social life. The psychological problems that affect most of these shift workers trickle down to their family and friends by affecting relationships. Most of these people lack the skills of a good social life and therefore, have a hard time relating to others. Most of the time they turn to sleeping pills and tranquilizers for a normal sleeping habit but sometimes ends up in addiction, and it becomes a vicious circle with no end.
They may lead to broken families and other health problems that may lead to death. Organizations that have a round the clock operation have to ensure that they have flexible schedules for their employees where they have a little bit of choice on the timing of their work. This is expected to improve their performance and reduce health implications of work pressures associated with shift working.
Circadian rhythm. (2017). Retrieved from NATIONAL SLEEP FOUNDATION: https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/what-circadian-rhythm
Costa, G. (1996). The impact of shift and night work on health. Applied Ergonomics , 9-16.
M Estryn-Behar, M. K. (1990). Stress at work and mental health status among female hospital workers. British Journal of Industrial Medicine, 20-28.
NANCY P. GORDON, P. D. (1986). The Prevalence and Health Impact of Shiftwork. AJPH .
Shift work. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.sleepeducation.org/essentials-in-sleep/shift-work
TAUSIG, R. F. (2001). Family and Health Outcomes of Shift Work and Schedule Control. AMERICAN BEHAVIORAL SCIENTIST, 1179-1198.
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