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Most of us have done this at some time in our professional careers – working outside the normal office hours of 9 to 5. While some jobs might require you to work at nights or on shifts, others will require you to sit long hours after you are officially off from work. All these scenarios have a seriously bad effect on your health as well as your social life.
Working outside office hours means that you will be spending lesser time with your friends and family. You will not have the time or the energy to go out with your loved ones and you will not be able to participate in any activity involving people living on a normal routine. I have also seen that people working on odd hours consistently find it very hard to carry on with their jobs because it is just not natural routine. However, these issues are nothing, compared to the health risks or working outside office hours.
It is easy to mess up your mind if you are punching the clock at odd hours. Various researchers have found that shift workers and people working outside office hours show more signs of cognitive impairment than people working normal hours. I also read a report by Swedish researchers, which concluded that people working outside the 9 to 5 range take longer time to complete tests to measure brain functions and tend to age faster than people who never worked on odd hours. Studies have also suggested that working extremely late or early hours can disrupt your brain’s front lobe, which is responsible for things like memory, judgment, language, motor control and problem solving. People working in healthcare, food service and public safety jobs are at a high risk of such side effects of odd hours or work.
Working outside office hours also messes up your biological clock making it much harder for you to fall asleep and stay asleep – reducing your overall quality of sleep. This means that your eyes do not remain shut for long or deep enough to fully restore and rejuvenate your brain and body, leading to potential memory and learning impairments. Therefore, the longer you work in such an environment where you have to stay back long hours after work, the worse it will affect your brain.
There is some glimmer of hope. The good news is that you can drastically stop the damage to your brain if you switch back to normal hours. It might take a while but switching back to normal hours will ensure that your brain starts functioning back to optimum levels gradually. In case, it is impossible for you to change to a proper 9 to 5 routine, it is essential for you to work towards improving the quality of your sleep, increasing the duration of your deep sleep.
A good, sound sleep means that you are snoozing at least 7 hours at night or 9 to 10 hours in the morning if you have night shifts. You should get at least 7 hours of sleep even on your days off and the weekend, as it will help condition your body and brain. This maintenance of sleep timing will help your body understand when it needs to transition from sleep to wakefulness and vice versa.
The issue is that sleep problems are not the only issue with working outside office hours. There is actually a plethora of dangers of working odd hours and most of them can only be controlled if you stop working like that altogether. Unfortunately, we are living in an age where working overtime and round the clock is becoming a norm. An alarming number of people are working on some kind of shift work or during odd hours. I am sure you would know quite a few people yourself who work like that.
While some people used to think that the effects of working outside office hours had short-term impact on the body, an increasing number of doctors are rejecting this opinion. In fact, irregular work hours can actually affect your health in long lasting ways. Your body ends up facing many challenges when you are at work when you should normally be sleeping. You start conflicting with your biological 24-hour clock.
Below, I have discussed five of the biggest risks of working outside office hours. I hope these are alarming enough for you to reconsider your options, and if not, I have also discussed ways to cope with all these conditions.
You Will Have Messed Up Sleep
People who work on shifts or outside office hours are prone to developing sleep problems, including being excessively sleepy, having trouble staying awake and in more serious situations, insomnia. Not getting to shut eyes enough means there will be a risk of suffering from dry eyes. People working at odd times are always sleep deprived to some extent. Moreover, it is much harder for you to sleep during the day because it is against the natural clock of your body. Add to that all the noise outside will just make it an impossible task.
How to Cope: While you might think you can lead a normal life by working outside office hours, the reality is, you cannot! Your priority will need to be protecting your sleep, even if it means that you are missing that all-important family dinner or a friend’s wedding. You might have to even take naps at odd times, but that is the kind of thing you will have to do. It is important for you to create a dark and quiet space to sleep and keep track of how much you of sleep you actually get each week (should be around 56 hours a week). Moreover, you will have to avoid alcohol, bright lights, exercise or caffeine before going to bed.
Gaining Weight Is Easy
When you have a confused sleeping patter, your appetite for consuming high-calorie food increases. Numerous studies have directly linked weight gain to sleep deprivation. This extra weight from working shifts can potentially account for many different health concerns, including an increase in the risk for cancer, diabetes and heart diseases.
How to Cope: You will have to be extra careful with your eating habits. Be sure to bring your own food and avoid the vending machines and the cafeteria. Eat small but frequent portions of high-protein meals. According to doctors, combining carbs with caffeine (like having muffin with coffee) is the worst idea, as these snacks can spike up your insulin levels, leading to weight gain. While it is good to exercise to lose weight, make sure you do it after you have rested and not before going to sleep.
It is Easier to Get Hurt
It has been observed that the workplace injury rate for people who work long hours is almost 50 percent higher than those who work normal hours. This is simply because you are more tired when you work outside office hours. It could also be because workplaces run on smaller staff at odd hours and there are fewer people available to help you complete risky tasks. Moreover if you work at night and have to deal directly with people, there is increased alcohol usage, making night jobs more dangerous.
How to Cope: Always ask for help when you are doing something risky while at work during off hours, like lifting things. Consume caffeine earlier in your shift and do the trickier tasks first while you are still alert and perky. Notice the times during the shift when you get tired and take a break at those moments.
Possible To Develop Pregnancy Problems
Pregnancy is a delicate thing and messing with the natural circadian rhythms of your body might affect your ability to have a healthy baby. Researchers have found that there is a substantial increase in the risk of miscarriage in women who work fixed night time hours. Working long hours can also increase the body stress and lead to low birth-weight babies and early deliveries.
How to Cope: If you are pregnant, you will have to take extra care with your weight and sleep. Consider getting help from a sleep clinic if you are unable to get enough shut-eye. You will be able to get treatments from a clinic, including sleep tips and light therapy.
Increased Risk of Cancer
It has been reported that women who work for many years during odd hour shifts have elevated risk of colon, endometrial and breast cancer. Researchers have blames melatonin levels to this, as those with higher levels of hormone are at lowest risk of cancer.
How to Cope: In case you have been working outside office hours, particularly during nights for a long time, you should keep up with your screenings quite regularly. You should discuss taking melatonin supplements with your doctor to see if that is required to be on the safer side.
While all these are just ways to cope with a bad working routine, the best advice would be to reconsider your options and look for a job where you are required to work only during normal working hours. Having difficulty in finding the job of your dreams? Read this blog post on Online Tools for Finding Out the Jobs Will Work For You.