A shift worker is anyone who follows a work schedule that is outside of the "9 to 5" business day. It has become increasingly popular and deemed as an effective way to improve productivity without major increases in infrastructure. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, millions of Americans are considered shift workers, including doctors and nurses, pilots, bridge-builders, police officers, customer service representatives and commercial drivers. Although shift work may be better for company productivity, there are serious sleep risks for the people who work in a 24-hour workforce.
This can lead to poor concentration and dizziness, absenteeism, accidents and errors, injuries and - in the worst case - loss of life. The issue becomes more alarming when you consider that shift workers are often employed in the most hazardous of jobs, such as firefighting, emergency medical services, law enforcement and security. Sleep is important for everyone, and bizarre shifts over time can start to develop sleeping disorders in workers. According to the International Classifications of Sleep Disorders, such work hours will in several ways cause health problems with respect to sleep and fatigue, cardiovascular disease, accidents and cancer. Night shifts are not normal for people because the body is used to sleeping during the night and being awake during the day. It is even more difficult for a body to get used to working all night when the individual goes back to normal sleep hours on their days off.
So how can workers cope with these long and inexplicable hours?
This may seem obvious but when working hours that disrupt the body's natural rythms, allowing a worker to take a nap can give their mind a break to get through the rest of the shift. Many facilities have sleep rooms for doctors and nurses encouraging them to recuperate during a long night shift. An article published in the 2007 edition of the Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety, noted that nurses typically don’t meet average daily sleep requirements. The article also cited two studies that found that nurses were at least twice as likely to make a medical error when working extended shifts (12.5 hours or longer.) This could be said for other careers of the same caliber as well as any worker in a 24-hour workforce. Workers should have the capabilities of napping for a period of time. This will increase productivity as well as public and worker safety.
Staying active may seem like the opposite of everything that was said before but an active person produces more energy which will alleviate excessive sleepiness. Have you ever been in a situation where you were exhausted and wanted to get tasks done but once you sat down, your eyes could not stay open? Inactivity allows the fatigue to catch up to you and the mind loses focus throughout the shift. If you are not able to take a nap during your shift then try and keep yourself busy in any way you can. Walk around, go for a quick jog, and make sure not to leave the most boring and tedious tasks until the end of your shift. Also, drinking a caffeinated beverage like coffee, tea or energy drinks can keep workers more alert.
If a worker has a schedule where there is a constant fluctuation in the hours they work like, working a night shift then immediately working a morning shift the next day, then they are basically not going to get any sleep at all increasing the chances of injury. This can happen more than people think but proper scheduling can avoid this altogether. Scheduling software is a good way to keep track of each worker and if there is a need for rotation or shift pick-up. Software can keep an accurate track of who is working what hours, which will give employers the proper information to fairly schedule everyone for different shifts. This can help cut down on overworking employees and pushing night shifts on people who may be exhausted from the other shifts that have been interrupting their sleep already.