Is it true that night shift workers really don’t live as long?

Does working night shift really decrease your lifespan compared to working day shift?  I’ve read multiple articles from the likes of the Huffington Post and similar click bait outlets who say the answer is yes.  However, what the Huffington Post and others have all failed to do is properly interpret the research articles.

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Does night shift make you die earlier?

What an interesting concept, let’s look at some of the big arguments and break them down.

 

The central argument for night shift decreasing lifespan revolves around a lack sleep

This is a huge flaw in these articles.  They assume, and incorrectly so, that every night shift worker is sleep deprived because they work a few nights a week.  In order for this to make sense, they would also have to assume that these night shift workers don’t make up that overnight sleep during the daytime.  I know I sure do!

If you have an adequate amount of sleep, day or night, then you will not suffer the health consequences of inadequate sleep, one of which is a shorter lifespan.

 

Disruption of circadian rhythm is a carcinogen?

Sunlight, toast, and grilled foods are also carcinogens.  Needless to say, you can survive with a lifetime of carcinogens in your lifestyle.

Also, the amount of which these research articles state that health problems can arise is only around a 10% increased risk.  That’s not much, and most people are perfectly fine taking that risk.

 

The research findings are inconclusive

Any study that concludes by stating that their findings are inconclusive and require further research should be taken with a grain of salt.  Researchers for this study are trying to connect some massive dots and make loose correlations.

It is difficult to prove causation from correlation, and I would argue that this research holds little weight in its current state of uncertainty.

 

My recommendations

I think a lot of the research on night shift and a decrease of lifespan is misleading.  However, sleep is important, this much we know.  Here are some suggestions to help you survive your night shift years.

 

Blackout Curtains

One of the best recommendations I can make is to get blackout curtains.  They’re super cheap, and might even pay for themselves in reduced electric bills in the summer, as they stop the sunlight from entering your house and warming it.  As an added bonus, they can also cut down on outside noise.

Check out these nice ones on Amazon, I use them myself:  http://amzn.to/2fGBl5g.

 

Sleep Aids

Some are better than others, let’s take a closer look…

Prescription drugs

I would strongly advise staying away from prescription drugs like Ambien, Ativan, Restoril, Trazodone, etc. as they can all be habit-forming and dangerous, not to mention they might get you fired if they show up in a drug test.

Benadryl

I would also advise against Benadryl for a few reasons:

  1. There is research out that suggests that Benadryl could cause dementia and Alzheimers with prolonged use.
  2. Benadryl becomes useless after about 72 hours at the current dose.  You’ll have to increase it every 3 days to get the same effects, and over time this could build up to a dangerously high dose.
  3. Benadryl makes myself and others feel extremely groggy.  This is not a feeling you want to have at work as you could hurt yourself, others, and your career.

 

Melatonin

Melatonin, however, has some nice literature reviews and I’ll explain some highlights:

  1. Effectively change your circadian rhythm.  Melatonin is a natural substance made by our bodies and usually, is produced when the sun sets to tell us to be sleepy.  When you are working night-shift, this natural event doesn’t happen, so we can make it happen with Melatonin supplementation.
  2. Melatonin is safe in extremely high doses.  It’s virtually impossible to OD on the drug with known instances of 300mg not being harmful.  For reference, most Melatonin sold in stores is either 1mg, 3mg, 5mg, or 10mg dose tablets.
  3. It’s cheap!  If you have to take a drug, it’s best if it’s cheap and safe.  Check and check!
  4. Interesting dreams.  Why not enjoy your sleep with some vivid, colorful dreams?  Most people think their dreams are more interesting when they take Melatonin.
  5. It’s a miracle drug.  Melatonin has shown to be beneficial to brain development in fetuses, has the potential for reducing the effects of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases through the prevention of cell death and reduced methylation of DNA, it’s a potent anti-oxidant, has been called an antiaging hormone, and it has demonstrated cardiovascular, nervous system, gastrointestinal, renal, and hepatic protective effects.

Melatonin source:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1395802/

What are your thoughts?  Do you think night shift decreases your lifespan?  Let us know below in the comments!

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