Shift Work & Immune Health
The relationship between sleep, shift work, and immune health has long been a subject of study and begins with something called the Circadian Rhythm; the bodies natural “internal clock”. This clock follows a 24-hour cycle and plays a crucial role in regulating the bodies temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rate, and hormone production. Unfortunately, shift work goes against the body’s natural internal clock, causing an imbalance if not properly supported. Loss of sleep combined with poor nutrition, high stress, and a lack of exercise triggers an inflammatory response in the body.
Why is inflammation bad? Well, when the body experiences an inflammatory response, the body will go straight into action to help fight and heal the problem, but if there is nothing to heal, the immune system will begin to damage the healthy cells, tissues, and organs instead.
The system that is essentially designed to help us fight infection will in turn start to harm us.
Have you ever heard that when you are sick you need more rest?
When we sleep, the body releases hormones that slow breathing, relax muscles and reduce inflammation which helps the body to fight even something as simple as the common cold.
Loss of sleep, even for a few short hours, can prompt the immune system to turn against itself – which is why getting a good night’s rest is crucial when we are examining immune health.
Basic sleep hygiene practices if you struggle with sleep after night shifts:
- Create a ‘morning’ bedtime routine to prep the body for sleep
- Block out light in the bedroom with dark shades or a sleep mask
- Limit the use of electronics before falling asleep
- Wear sunglasses on the way home from work and around the house before bedtime
- Consider using a white noise machine to block out any daytime noise that may affect the quality of your sleep
- Have a hot bath, practice meditation, breathing techniques, or stretch to calming music
It has been said that our bed is a form of medicine; we sleep to stay alive and that it is not the sickness we need to fight but instead properly support the immune system. The importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle has never been more important with the struggles we face today.
There is good news! If you are in good health, practicing a healthy lifestyle, and adopting healthy sleep habits you are reducing the risks of long-term damage to your immunity.
If you’re a shift worker and need help supporting your health, our Thrive 2.0 program may just be the answer you’re looking for.