Night Shift Survival

Night Shift Survival

In This Article

Health Risks of Late Night Work

In a study published in the July issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, more than 2,200 women were evaluated for the risks of night work.

At the time of the evaluation, 1,134 of the women evaluated had breast cancer and 1,179 did not. Interestingly, the women that worked night shifts for zero up to 29 years had no increased risk of breast cancer. The women who worked night shift work for more than 30 years had TWICE the risk of breast cancer compared to the women who never worked the night shift.

From the Ayurvedic perspective, working nights puts a significant strain on the nervous system to adapt to a lifestyle against the grain of nature’s rhythms. There are hormonal cycles that wax and wane throughout the day that allow us to eat, sleep, energize and tire – all according to our connection to the natural cycles. Living in tune with these cycles allows us to swim downstream with the current!

While some researchers say we adjust to night work, it is a proven challenge for the nervous system to sustain for the long haul. Even in Alaska, where it is dark all winter and light all summer, residents will be the first to tell you, “we sleep all winter and we are up all summer – with the sun”.
The sun is the life-giver. If we remove ourselves from the sun, our vitamin D and immunity plummets, as well as many other health factors.

For night workers to help adapt to the stress of night work, I always suggest they mitigate this chronic stress with one of the best adaptogens out there: Ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is the most popular of adaptogens because of its ability to support energy in the face of stress and help calm the nervous system for a great night’s sleep.

Cortisol levels, which can rise to dangerous levels while under stress, have been shown to decrease by 26% in one study on Ashwagandha (2).


  1. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Long Term Night Shift Work. July 2013
  2. Jain S, Shukla SD, Sharma K, Bhatnagar M. Neuroprotective effects of Withania somnifera Dunn. in hippocampal sub-regions of female albino rat. Phytother Res. 2001 Sep;15(6):544-8.

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Dr. John

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