When sleep is a dream

Written by Rajendra K Saxena | Updated: Mar 14 2008, 10:55am hrs
Working for 10-12 hours in a night shift, eating at odd hours and sitting for long hours in the same posture may look cool initially, but its not so in the longer run.

Employees in BPOs, IT and media, who work in night shits, become prone to sleep disorders, headaches, backaches, sleepiness, weariness, lethargy, indigestion, low alertness and eyesight problems.

Says Dr M S Kanwar, senior consultant, Respiratory, Critical Care and Sleep medicine, Apollo Hospital, New Delhi, Such workers dont get deeper phases of sleep, which leads to medical problems like lethargy, depression, tiredness, memory loss, lack of energy and mood swings. Some people even tend to eat more, while others eat less.

Explaining about different stages of the sleep architecture, he says, The first and the second stages are lighter phases of sleep and the third and the fourth stages are deeper phases of sleep, and the fifth stage is known as REM (Rapid Eye Movement). REM consists of shorter phases of deep sleep.

Anubhav, an employee in an international publishing house, is working in a regular night shift for the last two months. He feels weakness and lethargy throughout the day. When he does a double shift or his shift extends beyond 8 hours, he feels pain in his body, he says.

The nature of the job, deadline pressures and late night shifts dont permit these people to take rest for the required time, which results in disruption of their sleep rhythm. Many people find it uneasy to sleep for the first half hour or an hour due to weariness and suffer from insomnia.

Working under pressure and eating junk food and that too untimely has become a regular habit for people working at night. It can cause digestive disorders and stomach related problems like gastroenteritis.

Samir Sinha is an assistant manager in a BPO. His shift keeps changing every week. He says, I find difficult to sleep after the first and the second day of the new shift. Feeling weak and tired is a regular feature now.

Explains Dr R K Mani, director, Pulmonary Medicine and Sleep Medicine, Fortis Rajan Dhal Hospital, New Delhi, When a person does a night shift, he suffers from sleep deprivation syndrome, which causes lethargy and tiredness. It also results in lack of concentration, sleepiness and inattentiveness.

He adds, When one wants to revert to earlier sleep pattern, it takes 48 hours to restore the sleep cycle. One should sleep for at least six hours daily. If one fails to attain the minimum required sleep, a sleep debt accrues, which is not good.

Dr Kanwar has some advice for people on night shift. If a person works for three or four nights regularly, he should take two consecutive days off. Only if employers would listen to it!