Working all day is tiring, but the health risks are even higher for those who work at night. Many people on the graveyard shift have difficulty getting proper sleep and nutrition, which increases the risk factors for disease such as stroke and obesity.
Sharina Joy Pagkatipunan, who has been working at night for two years, said it took three months before she could fully adjust her sleeping habits. "Babaliktarin mo talaga 'yung araw mo, gabi mo. Mahirap talaga. Lahat na tinry ko nung first three months para yung routine ng katawan ko, maitulog ko pa rin ng tama," Pagkatipunan shared on “Kape at Balita” on January 10.
According to a study from the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the University of the Philippines Population Institute, 47.7 percent of call center agents have insomnia.
"Paguwi ko parang hindi pa ako makatulog, tapos makakatulog ako siguro mga hapon na," Martin Salandanan, whose shift is from 2 A.M. to 11 A.M., said in a report on “Unang Balita.”
Occupational physician Dr. Albert Asprec explained that sleeping during the day is difficult because it goes against the body's circadian rhythm. He said some systems in the body work during the night, while others work during the day.
"Kapag binaligtad mo yung araw mo ginawa mong oras ng tulog at yung gabi mo ginawa mong oras ng pagtrabaho, nalilito ang timing ng katawan mo. Nagkakaroon tayo ng behavior modification. Tinuturuan mo ang katawan mo na sumunod sa alanganin," Asprec said.
This conflict results in both short term and long term symptoms. Short term symptoms include frequent migraines, which are most common in females. "Kapag pumupunta ka sa mga company na may trabahong graveyard shift o night shift, sa records sa consultation sa clinic ang nakikita lahat sa babae karaniwan migraine," Asprec said, adding that one long term symptom for women is painful and irregular menstruation. Some, like Pagkatipunan, suffer iron deficiency. "Nagpa checkup ako so regularly may iron supplements and vitamins to cope," she said.
Respiratory diseases were common among both men and women who work at night, particularly in work areas that were closed. "Kaya ang exchange ng mga respiratory diseases, mas laganap," he said.
The study from ILO and UP also said that 54 percent of call center agents who work at night experience fatigue. "Masakit siya, hindi mo magalaw 'yung leeg mo. Kapag ginalaw mo siya, masakit talaga," Adrian Bataller, whose shift is from 5 P.M. to 2 A.M, said on “Unang Balita.”
Coping with night work
Asprec said that whether the shift is during the day or at night, getting enough sleep and exercise is important. "Ang trabaho maging umaga, maging gabi, lahat yan trabaho. Kung malusog ka, wala kang kaba. Mababa ang risk factor kapag malusog," he said.
Those who work at night should make extra effort in order to get proper, uninterrupted sleep. "'Pag sinabing madilim, madilim yung kuwarto pati yung ilaw tanggalin ang cellphone. Sabihan ang mga kasamahan sa bahay na huwag gigisingin kapag natutulog na," Asprec said.
Pagkatipunan shared that she would keep her room dark and cool to be able to sleep well. "Para makatulog, off talaga yung internet, kasi distraction siya. At ang room ko madilim talaga, yung curtain makapal, tapos yung temperature din, malamig," she said.
Asprec also warned against overeating, because those who work at night tend to feel hungry due to lowered levels of leptin, the hormone which regulates appetite. Eating also increases levels of blood sugar, insulin, and triacylglycerol, which store energy.
Asprec explained that triacylglycerol levels decrease after two days in people who work during the day, but for those who work at night, the levels remain high.
"Kapag tumataas yun, nagsesettle yun sa mga blood vessel at sa puso natin," he said, adding that this leads to atherosclerosis, the hardening of the arteries. "Kapag kumapal yung ugat, lumiliit yung daanan ng dugo kaya nagiging high blood at risk for stroke," he said, noting that the risk for cardiovascular stroke increases by five percent for every five years after 15 years of working at night.
He said companies with night shifts should have special programs for their employees' health. "Kapag mas kaunti 'yung taba na sinasama mo sa diet mo, mas kaunti 'yung naiipon sa katawan mo. At pag nageexercise ka, yung naipon nang taba, natutunaw, lumalabas sa katawan," he said.
Apart from eating and sleeping well, healthy relationships will also help workers cope.
"Tulog ka, lahat ng kasama mo gising, pag gising ka lahat sila tulog. Nakakaramdam tayo ng depression. Kaya ang ginagawa nila, ang pinakamalapit na kaibigan na sa trabaho," said Asprec, explaining that those who work at night should socialize with others with similar schedules so that they will not experience social isolation.
"We just have to practice how to work properly and how to rest properly," he said. - Carmela G. Lapeña / KDM GMA News