What Does Shift Work Do To Your Body

shift work police officer tired and wired stress

Police Officers careers often start with shift work.   And many remain on a shift schedule throughout their entire career.

I am going to tell you how shift work affects your sleep and how to fix it.

Today we are talking about being tired and wired.  Some people describe it as being a night owl.  You know, you drag yourself through your day and need coffee or sugar to make it through your shift, especially 8 hours or so after waking.    And then when it’s time for bed you get a surge of energy for a few hours and you stay awake, knowing you will pay for it the next day but it’s the most energy you’ve had since you woke up that it’d be a shame to waste it on sleep.

Or you try to go to sleep and you toss and turn for hours until you give up and get out of bed, or eventually sleep kicks in only to wake you a few hours later.

How many of you feel like this?

You definitely aren’t alone.

Why this happens and how to fix it.  

Cortisol levels are generally high in the morning as you wake from a prolonged period of sleep.  We call this your ‘cortisol awakening response’.   As the day progresses, your cortisol levels naturally begin to drop slowly and consistently ending up low in the late evening. This allows your body to keep a regular sleeping pattern, with your cortisol level dropping for periods of sleep, then replenishing during the following morning.

But when you are on night shifts. The pattern and timing of the release of cortisol is reversed to allow for higher levels throughout the late evening and slowly dropping through the night so they are low in the morning when you would go to sleep.

With your shifts being all over the place your body doesn’t have a lot of time to adjust to its new rhythm.  Over time your hormones get all out of synch.

The good news is there are things you can do to help.

First, we need to help your body calm the chaos by lowering your cortisol levels in order to slow down and get to sleep.

Crawl into bed, turn the lights out and focus on your slow deep breathing until you feel your body let go and you are ready to fall asleep.

If you need more help to turn off the noise in your brain add a drop of lavender essential oil to your temples, base of your neck and wrists.

Consistency is key.  Try this for the next week and let me know how it is working for you by emailing me at support@andiclark.com

To learn more about ways to reduce the effects of shift work and stress on your body,  sign up for our newsletter where you get great tips and tricks like these in your inbox and join our 911 Stress Management Group to keep you motivated and accountable.


The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider. Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.