Biorhythm – how shift workers can get good sleep too

Biorhythm – How shift workers can get a good night's sleepEarly and night shifts can deprive office workers of healthy sleep. Lack of daylight is often to blame. Sleep researchers show how to stay in rhythm despite irregular working hours

Biorhythm - how shift workers get a good night's sleep too

Working in darkened office rooms makes you sleepy and reduces your performance. More and more people are working shifts today. Have irregular working hours. Shift work is very common, especially in the security service (50 percent), food production (50 percent) or transport and health care (24 and 29 percent, respectively) industries. For ten years, the Clinic for Sleep Medicine Zurzach has been conducting workshops for shift workers in companies. Now she has conducted a field study that shows the health consequences of shift work.

This confirmed what experts already knew: shift work is detrimental to good sleep quality. Every tenth shift worker suffers from the so-called shift worker syndrome with sleepiness during work and sleep disturbances in the recovery phase. "Living against the rhythm," is the technical term for this. The associated increased sleepiness also leads to a proven accumulation of accidents.

For the field study, the sleep experts examined 80 employees of a family business with questionnaires and a shift team over a month with measuring devices. The company, with almost 400 employees and sales of more than 200 million Swiss francs, produces in three shifts in early, late and night shift sequence. The study focused on the effect of shift work on the amount of sleep. The aim was then to provide individual sleep advice.

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Late shift is healthiest

The survey showed that the late shift brings the best amount of sleep. Here, the desired sleep duration of the Swiss population of about 7.5 hours is achieved. The night shift performs worst. Because the early shift allows for a lot of free time in the afternoon, it is admittedly the most popular among employees. With it the sleep is surprisingly however shortest. Furthermore, more than half of the respondents said they suffered from sleep problems when switching shifts.

Australian researchers also came to similar conclusions in a study last year. They had obstetricians with measuring devices. Protocols accompanied over 28 days at work. The average amount of sleep the young women got was rather short at 6 to 7 hours. Half of them had before early-. even got less than 6 hours of sleep before early night shifts. Sleep physician Jens Acker from the research team in Bad Zurzach concludes from this: "Sleep counseling for shift workers makes sense." Adjustments in the company that could reduce stress on the night shift, for example, had been discussed in workshops. "If you have to sleep against your natural rhythm, you can effectively help your body recover," says Acker.

More daylight helps

Shift work and its consequences are also the subject of so-called chronomedicine. Their field of research is the "internal clock", which is increasingly out of rhythm due to the 24-hour society. Rhythm disturbances can also be caused by insufficient amounts of light. People are not exposed enough to daylight, especially in the winter months. A group of researchers around the behavioral biologist Christian Cajochen at the Center for Chronobiology of the Psychiatric University Hospital in Basel examined the connection between daylight and mental well-being. According to Cajochen, people who consume little daylight are more likely to be unhappy and more susceptible to health problems than those who are spoiled by light.

Because light is more than brightness. Light pulses entering through the eye not only hit the brain region responsible for vision, but also the brain region that plays an important role in sleep-wake regulation. These non-visual light effects are manifold. Light affects the "inner clock", an area of the brain behind the root of the nose the size of a grain of rice. If the light goes out for a while, or comes on at the wrong time, the internal clock gets out of sync. The consequence are approximately sleep disturbances.

LED screen as a wonder weapon

Light at the right time not only clocks you, but also wakes you up. Central to this is not only the luminous intensity, but also the color composition of the light. High blue components have a particularly stimulating effect. In addition, light promotes cognitive performance. For example, the research team found that subjects solved a learning task more easily when they sat in front of a computer screen equipped with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) with high blue components. And finally, the researchers pointed to the antidepressant effect of light, which has long been proven.

Based on these findings, researchers consider light sources in offices important. This includes not only lamps, but also screens. In particular, the newer generation of LED screens with high blue light components are helpful. Recently, there has also been an "innovative light ceiling" with thousands of small LED lamps, according to Cajochen. Initial research showed that office workers felt as if they were working outdoors under them.

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