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Work Life Balance: Night-Shift Workers at Higher Risk for Weight Gain

Written by LeAnn Thieman, CSP, December 16th, 2014

night shift_ work life balanceWorking the night shift increases a person’s risk of weight gain, according to new research at the University of Colorado, Boulder, increasing the need for these workers to learn proper self care and work life balance. Night workers expend less energy during a 24-hour period than their day-shift counterparts, according to the study.

Researchers believe this is due to an interruption in a person’s circadian rhythm, or sleep pattern.

“Shift work goes against our fundamental biology,” said Kenneth Wright, director of CU-Boulder’s Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory and senior author of the study. “Shift work requires our biological day to occur at night and our biological night to occur during the day, and that’s very difficult to achieve because the sun is such a powerful cue.

“We can have some change in our clock — a couple of hours — but then on days off, it goes right back. Shift workers never adapt.”

Circadian rhythms can shift over time with the use of artificial lights and less sun exposure. But night-shift workers usually switch back to daytime schedules on their days off, so their biological clocks never fully adjust.

“When people are on a shift-work-type schedule, their daily energy expenditure is reduced and, unless they were to reduce their food intake, by itself could lead to weight gain,” Wright said. Plus, the amount and type of food eaten at night tends to be different and less healthy than that consumed during the day, Wright said.

“What we can say is that it’s perhaps even more important to have a healthy diet for shift workers as well as a healthy amount of physical activity,” Wright said.

To learn strategies for self care and work life balance, visit SelfCare for HealthCare™. Contact me today to discuss your facility’s challenges with getting staff to care for themselves so they can care for others.

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