Sankhajyoti Saha, M.Optometry
Clinical Optometrist, I for Eye, Falakata, India
Ever wonder why after a heavy night shift or after a prolonged journey we often misjudge the time or experience a jet lag? Even it has found that blind patients do have sleep deprivation. The recent pandemic situation has brought every individual in front of the digital screen. Ranging from parental pressure for achieving a greater high school grade to the rat race against next promotion, silently we are going towards a never-ending journey, which eventually takes away the fundamental importance of synchrony with the environment for the survival of an organism.
Scientists suspect that shift work is dangerous because it disrupts the circadian rhythm, the body’s biological clock. Anyone, whose “light and dark” schedule was frequently disrupted, including frequent long-haul travelers or insomniacs, could theoretically increase cancer risks (1).
The Pineal Gland was considered “The Third Eye” due to its correlation with light and its anatomical position. It is the master gland around which all psychic awareness in the human mind evolves. Melatonin is “the pineal gland hormone”, whose secretion is largely controlled by illumination. This hormone is responsible for setting your “habitual sleep pattern”, maintaining your body’s circadian rhythm, and regulating reproductive hormones. When it’s dark, your body produces more melatonin, and when it’s light (or say daylight) the production of melatonin decreases.
It has been suspected, apart from rods and cones (which are responsible for your vision), it is a newly discovered subgroup of photosensitive retinal ganglion cells, which is responsible for regulating melatonin’s secretion.
Does shift-work affect us?
Experts say that shift work could have a serious impact on our health in at least two ways. People who do shift work tend to have sleep disturbances and sleep loss (2). The rest has to do with our biology whack, including our cardiovascular system, metabolism, digestion, and hormonal balance. That appears to have serious consequences.
Short-Term health effects:
- Gastrointestinal symptoms. (2)
- Insomnia. (2)
- Decreased quality of life. (2)
Long-Term health effects:
- Cardiovascular disease. (2)
- Metabolic syndromes (like Diabetes). (2)
- Obesity. (2)
- Problems with fertility and pregnancy.(2)
- Cancer. (2)
The take-home messages:
- To stimulate a natural night’s sleep, avoid the use of electronic devices at least an hour before going to sleep.
- Try to sleep in a completely darkened room.
- Have foods that naturally enrich your melatonin production like cherries, bananas, eggs, pineapple.
- Change your schedule. While moving to a daytime shift might not be possible, making changes to how you work at night could help, too. For instance, some experts think that working stable rather than rotating shifts might be healthier (2).
The focus of this writing is not to influence people to rush out and hit the desk with a resignation letter. But, people should be aware of the possible risks behind their work schedule. Stay in touch with your Healthcare Practitioner to avoid any long term risks.
(1) Graveyard shift linked to cancer risk. (2007, November 30). Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/graveyard-shift-linked-cancer-risk-flna1C9463422(Last accessed: August 24, 2020, 09:39 PM)
(2) The health risks of shift work. (2010, March 29). Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/shift-work(Last accessed: August 24, 2020, 09:40 PM)
*Picture courtesy: The picture in this content has been taken by Sankhajyoti Saha.