Working the night shift has a negative impact on health and in particular mental health. Numerous studies show that the risk of depression and mood disorders increases when you work the night shift. Working the night shift means working against your body’s natural inclination to sleep and turning off certain key functions like consciousness and mobility.
Working the night shift interferes with the circadian rhythm, causing sleep disturbances, fatigue, and diminished well-being, and increases the risk of many serious diseases. Some research and my clinical observations show that night work may increases the risk of depression, insomnia, and anxiety. 1.2
Some research showed a significant association between night shift work, the circadian and sleep disruption it causes, and the risk of depression in nurses. This demonstrates that nurses who work night shifts are at risk of developing depression.
The incidence of breast cancer worldwide has increased in recent decades, accounting for 1 in 3 cancers in women. Besides, nurses are mainly represented by the female collective, most of them, undertaking working conditions with intensive rotative and night shifts due to the 24-h pace of work of this profession. The objective of this study was to assess the possible relationship between shift work, especially night-time work, and the development of breast cancer among nurses.3
Some studies indicate that disruption of normal circadian rhythm may increase the risk of developing other cancers. Persons who engage in nightshift work have altered nighttime melatonin levels and reproductive hormone profiles that could increase the risk of hormone-related diseases, including breast cancer. Also, the detoxification process in all shift workers is severely affected. Some studies are now beginning to emerge suggesting that women who work at night, and who experience sleep deprivation, circadian disruption, and exposure to light at night are at an increased risk of breast cancer, and possibly colorectal cancer as well.4
The night shift workers were reported to have health consequences, ranging from mild, as cluster headaches, to severe, as heart attacks and hormonal irregularities. 5
Underactive thyroid was observed among the night shift workers is caused by disruption of the circadian rhythm and sleep/wake cycle, with subsequent eating disorders. 
Other recent studies suggested that the relationship between night-shift work and prostate cancer may differ between rotating and fixed schedules. This study is suggesting that an increased risk of prostate cancer may be restricted to workers with rotating night shifts. 6
The research findings suggest that working rotating night shifts with sufficient frequency may modestly accelerate reproductive senescence among women who may already be predisposed to earlier menopause.7
Also, vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency are highly prevalent conditions worldwide due to several factors, including poor sun exposure. Shift workers may be exposed to the risk of low vitamin D due to fewer opportunities for sunlight exposure compared to day workers. 9
Sleep deprivation and mental health
Not getting enough sleep or poor-quality sleep can increase the risk of mental health disorders. While insomnia can be a symptom of psychiatric disorders, like anxiety and depression, it is now recognized that sleep problems can also contribute to the onset and worsening of different mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and even suicidal ideation. 10
How natural medicine can help?
Herbal medicine, nutrition, and change in lifestyle can help with detoxification, nutritional deficiencies, increase in energy, reducing stress, and anxiety, and improving mood. However, a while a naturopath can help a shift worker a change in working hours will bring the body homeostasis.
If you would like to know more about how the DH-Natural Medicine Clinic can help you, please call us now on
(02) 4854 0205
Danuta Hulajko is a Naturopath, international speaker and the founder & practitioner at the DH Natural Medicine Clinic and www.healingremedies.com.au in the Southern Highlands
Danuta specialises in Allergies, Anti-Aging, Auto-Immune Conditions, Cardiovascular Conditions, Female Reproductive, Long Covid, Menopause, Mould Toxicity, Skin Conditions, Stress and Insomnia and Thyroid Dysfunction.