Shift workers are those whose work schedule falls outside of the normal 9-5. They are often in healthcare, construction, manufacturing, or some other field that requires odd work hours. Although there are benefits to taking these shifts, this shift wreaks havoc on your health. Continue reading to find out ways to regulate your blood sugar as a shift worker.
Adjustments of a shift worker
Shift workers often work graveyard shifts, or overnight. They sleep during the day and are up at night. This means that they live their whole lives opposite of everyone else. They eat throughout the night and are just winding down when everyone else is waking up. They have to sleep during the day when the light outside may make it difficult, and they have to be up during the night when the darkness makes it so tempting to go to sleep.
Shift workers normally get paid more for taking these shifts, as they are less desirable. There also may be more flexibility as the bosses usually aren't around and it's a more relaxed atmosphere. In hospitals, the nights may be quieter than the day time and also, some workers either work or go to school during the day.
Shift work disorder
Shift work disorder is a disorder caused by the imbalance of hormones that happens to shift workers. There is a hormone called cortisol that is responsible for stress. But, it also is responsible for jumpstarting biological processes at the beginning of the day. Cortisol peaks in the morning and tapers down throughout the rest of the day as you prepare for bed.
Your body can coordinate these different releases because your retina, in the back of your eye, receives either light or darkness, and sends a message to your hypothalamus that it's time to release certain hormones.
As a shift worker, this is thrown off because they're sleeping when light hits their eyes and signals that it's time to wake up. Then, they're awake at times, upregulating certain hormones, like cortisol, should normally be at low levels. Cortisol impacts glucose management and can be thrown off by the backwards schedule.
Unregulated blood glucose
Unregulated blood glucose is dangerous and increases the risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (DM). DM is a disorder where your body becomes resistant to insulin and cannot uptake the glucose into your muscles and organs. This can lead to a significant increase in the glucose in your blood.
High levels of glucose in your blood are problematic because it increases the risk for developing cardiovascular disease, retinopathy (blindness) and kidney disease. It's important to regulate blood sugar to avoid these further complications.
In shift workers, eating throughout the night and fasting through the day confuses the body. It's used to receiving food during the day and fasting at night. The glucose in your body when you go to sleep is used to fuel all of the recovery processes that happen at night, therefore lowering your blood sugar and matining it at an optimal level. When this schedule is disrupted, then there no longer is a balance for blood sugar.
How to regulate blood sugar
A new study shows that shift workers can actually better manage their blood sugar by eating during the day instead of at night. Daytime meals prevented the increase in glucose intolerance, or rise in glucose, that they saw in shift workers. Eating during the day re establishes a natural glucose rhythm.
This may seem difficult, especially because shift workers are normally working, and therefore would get hungry at night. But, if shift workers can eat as soon as they're off work and right before they go with a meal in the middle, then that may help reduce nighttime cravings for a full meal. Aligning glucose rhythms is really important to reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases due to a misaligned work schedule.