Travel Allied December 3, 2018

By Sarah Stasik

5 Tips for a Successful Night Shift in 2019: How Sleep Deprivation Can Lead to Depression

A review of studies on night work and mental health by medical researchers indicated that people who work the night shift have a greater risk of depression. The increase is a whopping 42 percent. But the link between working night shift and depression doesn't mean health care providers don't have to care for patients in the off hours.


The link between working night shift and depression

The National Sleep Foundation notes that lack of sleep can fuel a variety of health issues, both physical and mental. Individuals with insomnia are much more likely to be diagnosed with clinical depression or anxiety, for example, and individuals with obstructive sleep apnea were five times more at risk for depression.

But a physical issue isn't required to experience sleep obstacles. Working the night shift messes with natural sleep rhythms and your ability to align your schedule with the rest of the world, both of which can lead to less or poorer quality sleep. And that means the same increased risks noted above.

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Luckily, you don't have to take these issues laying down (though laying down regularly with the intent to rest is a good tip for getting enough sleep when you work the night shift). Here are five other tips for protecting your mental health if you put in late shifts.

1. Don't rely on caffeine

Night shift workers sometimes turn to caffeine to increase energy and stay awake during their shift, but you could pay for that boost later. Caffeine interferes with sleep, making it even harder to rest after your shift is done. If you do use caffeine during your shift, switch to decaf beverages a few hours before the shift ends.

2. Take power naps and rest breaks

Take advantage of downtime during your shift to catch a power nap or just rest. Resting in a quiet, comfortable place with your eyes closed provides a break for your brain and can offer some rejuvenation if a nap isn't an option.

3. Create a good sleep environment at home

Darken your room with blackout curtains, and if possible, turn off phone ringers and alarms. Work with others in the home to support your sleeping habits. It's important to make it more likely you'll stay asleep once you get there because if you wake during the middle of the day, it can be harder to fall back asleep and get seven to eight hours of rest.

4. Make your shift fun

Get to know your coworkers so you can joke and entertain each other during a shift. It helps keep you awake and alert without stimulants and also mitigates some of the stress of the night shift, which can increase risks of depression too.

5. Ask for help

If you're feeling exhausted all the time or don't know if you can deal with the night shift anymore, ask for help from nurse supervisors or Employee Assistance Programs. And if you're experiencing any signs of depression, consider talking to a mental health professional for guidance.

While you can take measures to combat the link between working night shift and depression, shift work isn't for everyone. You may also need to look at other opportunities to avoid burnout and mental health issues.


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