Shift Work: Threat To A Healthy Body And Mind

As a single mother of two, I have chosen to work as a home-based medical transcriptionist.  I have been in this kind of job for 17 years now, working in rotational shifts.


While being awake at night is a very unpleasant and difficult experience, it is the daytime symptoms which most impact on the lives of those suffering with insomnia. — John Cline Ph.D.

I have been happy and thankful for this job as it allowed me to work from home and be a hands-on mom, taking care of my kids’ needs and mine as well.  At first, I found it hard to stay awake eight hours straight during nighttime, but as time went by, I got used to it.   I can even work two shifts straight.   I never realized that it could in the long term be a threat to having a healthy body and mind.

Shift Work’s Negative Effect On One’s Health

Working in shifts for an extended period can pose a risk to your health.  It can increase your risk of having heart disease, metabolic problems, ulcers, gastrointestinal problems, certain cancers, and even obesity.  Working in rotational shift deprives you of enough sleep and even causes you to have depression in the long term.


Shift Work Sleep Disorder

I experienced difficulties adjusting to my different work schedules, especially during nighttime.  The ability to get enough quality sleep was a real struggle.  I was suffering from shift work disorder.


In work shift sleep disorder, there is a conflict between my body’s circadian rhythm and my work schedule.  I often felt sleepy when I was on duty, but of course, I had to stay awake and alert so I would do stuff to keep me awake, like eating.  And when it was time for me to sleep, I would stay awake and find it hard to sleep.



My sleep was very disturbed and I was often left with just two to four hours of slumber most of the days.  With the less and poor quality of sleep, I often felt tired and unproductive.  It often hurt the quality of work I did, and I got the impression that I did things sluggishly.  And whenever I was feeling this way, I would try to avoid going out alone because I was afraid that I might get into an accident.

As bedtime approaches you worry that you’ll lie awake for hours, or that you’ll be up in the middle of the night, or will wake up hours before sunrise and won’t be able to fall back asleep. Your bed becomes a place of anxiety and stress, not relaxation and sleep. — Seth J. Gillihan Ph.D.

My Body’s Internal Clock

It is the body’s circadian rhythm that dictates when it is time to sleep in order to rest and when it is time to stay awake and alert.  Like a standard clock on our wall, the circadian rhythm works in a 24-hour schedule also.

The sunlight determines the amount of sleep needed to encourage the production of the hormone melatonin.  So when your wake-sleep rhythm is disrupted, it also disturbs your melatonin production, thus resulting in insomnia.


In my 17 years of working rotational shifts, I gained a bit of weight as I compensated my sleepless nights with eating more food than I usually do.  And to keep myself awake and attentive, I used to feast on sweets and junk foods.



Since I aged a bit, I had decided to get back to a regular daytime job before my health gets even worse.  I admit that I am still having difficulty sleeping at night, but I know I will get regain my healthy body clock rhythm in time.  It is not easy, but I am now following a healthy diet, exercise, and good sleep hygiene.

Stimulation, including suspenseful books, action shows/movies, and video games, can increase brain activity and heart rate, making it difficult to fall asleep. If you get into bed too soon after engaging in these activities, you may face frustration regarding your inability to quickly fall asleep, which perpetuates sleep disturbances. — Megan MacCutcheon, LPC

Doing home-based online jobs had been God’s answer to my prayer that I may be able to provide well for my children financially and at the same time have time to take care of them.   I love my children that much that I was willing to sacrifice even my sleeping time for their future’s sake.  And now that they are all grown up, I know I’ve raised them well and that they can provide for themselves.


Shift work is often a threat to a person’s health, and I thank God that overall, despite years of doing rotational shifts, I am still physically and mentally healthy aside from insomnia and a bit of weight gain, which I need to focus on right now.