Public Health/shift work


For the last few years I have worked the evening shift, 5pm-1am.
Although my health has not really taken a turn for the worse, (I have hypertension which is controlled and sleep apnea I am on a CPAP machine), I have gained weight, am a bit more depressed at times, and have been drinking more on my off days.
I had the opportunity to take a day shift, 11am -7pm and took it. I cant find much info on the effect  of shift work on health. Do you think moving to this shift will be a positive step?

The canned response to what you've asked probably would refer you to a practitioner.  You've got other "issues", to use a somewhat vernacular term: hypertension and sleep apnea.  These may be related if for no other reason than being something that you don't have full control over.  Clinical depression is more than feeling blue and there's another diagnosis called dysthymia. This is used to refer to meeting criteria for clinical depression over a longer period of time.

There's one thing that comes to mind; I'm sure you heard this before: Exercise.

One of the reasons exercise helps is, doing it (or not) is completely under your control.  Feeling like we don't have as much control as we'd like contributes to depression.  Doing something deliberate that you can't possible credit to someone else makes exercising the closest thing to a "magic bullet" humans will ever find.

There's a book by a guy named John Ratey that may interest you.  The book is called "Spark".  It confirmed things I've believed based on personal experience.   I was first exposed to him work in the late 1980s/early 1990s, when he and his buddy Ned Hallowell published "Driven to Distraction".

My personal relationship with exercise has been struggle; I didn't grow up exercising.  But I've always liked it.  This means I feel guilty sometime, if I exercise while also being "under the gun".

Making the move to day shift is a terrific move.  Yes, I think it is a positive step.  Taking it creates an opportunity.  Use it to redefine who you are.  Is part of your identity connected to being overweight?  If so, maybe moving to days will make it possible for you to change that self-image.  Also, make certain your cpap machine is properly calibrated and set to something optimal for you.  This is very important too.

If you're interested in clinical studies on shift work, try looking for studies about exposure to light, and studies about social life.  Each is more difficult to find when you work at night and both are correlated to mood and health.

Good job on the switch!

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John Crout


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