Podcast 869: Shift Work - The Emergency Medical Minute

Podcast 869: Shift Work

Contributor: Meghan Hurley MD

Educational Pearls:

  • Shift work is defined as anything that takes place outside of a 9-5 schedule, not exempting day-shift medical workers

  • Various ill effects of shift work on overall health:

    • Increased all-cause mortality

    • Increased number of accidents

    • Glucose metabolism dysregulation

    • Increased BMI

    • Fertility impacts for men and women

    • Increased breast cancer risk

    • Decreased cognitive functioning

  • Mitigation strategies

    • Work at the same time every day

    • Anchor Sleep – always try to be asleep at the same time of day

    • Progressive shifts: day- into swing- into night shift instead of the other way around

    • Three days off after a stretch of nights can help reset sleep schedule

    • Shorter night shifts

    • Morning shifts should start no earlier than 8 AM

  • Sleep hygiene

    • Ensure an ideal sleep environment; cool, dark, and damp

    • Avoid bright lights when going to sleep

    • Exposure to bright lights when waking up

    • Hydration throughout your shift

    • Stop caffeine at midnight if you are working a night shift

    • Eat healthy meals and avoid junk food

    • Avoid eating 2-3 hours before going to sleep


  1. Boivin, D. B., Boudreau, P., & Kosmadopoulos, A. (2022). Disturbance of the Circadian System in Shift Work and Its Health Impact. Journal of biological rhythms, 37(1), 3–28. https://doi.org/10.1177/07487304211064218

  2. Jang TW. Work-Fitness Evaluation for Shift Work Disorder. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021;18(3):1294. Published 2021 Feb 1. doi:10.3390/ijerph18031294

  3. Minors DS, Waterhouse JM. Anchor sleep as a synchronizer of rhythms on abnormal routines. Int J Chronobiol. 1981;7(3):165-188.

  4. Reinganum MI, Thomas J. Shift Work Hazards. [Updated 2023 Jan 27]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK589670/

Summarized by Jorge Chalit, OMSII | Edited by Meg Joyce & Jorge Chalit, OMSII



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