What is 3rd Shift depression? (+3 coping tips)

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Page last updated: 28/10/2022

What is 3rd Shift depression? (+3 coping tips)

In this blog we will discuss what 3rd Shift depression is. 

We will also breifly discuss how prevalent night shift depression is, how 3rd shift work can impact mental and phsycial health, as well as what one can do to cope. 

What is 3rd Shift depression?

3rd shift depression refers to depression that is often reported in people who work the night shift also known as the graveyard shift.

It is not an official diagnosis but it is commonly a term that is used to refer to the sense of emptiness, anxiety, and low moods that night shift workers often struggle with.

It is possible that 3rd shift Depression is marked by the following symptoms:

  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day- either by their own observation or observation made by others.
  • Diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia. 
  • A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
  • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.

Depression symptoms also include extremely low mood and fatigue and is often accompanied by thoughts of worthlessness and hopelessness which can lead to suicidal ideation and even attempts. 

Depression related symptoms such as inability to focus, lack of energy, and hopelessness can impact a person’s ability to work and meet the demands of their daily lives. 

People with depression often struggle with low self esteem and self worth which can cause them to negatively assess themselves. They may fear rejection and abandonment from other people which may cause them to isolate themselves in a bid to protect themselves.

This social withdrawal can make it difficult for them to maintain social commitments and relationships as they might choose to push people away especially when they do not have the skills to communicate and manage their emotions and thoughts. 

While these are some of the ways depression impacts a person, the disorder itself can cause the quality of life of people who have it to drastically decrease and in extreme cases, if the disorder is left untreated, it can lead to suicide attempts and death. 

According to Beth Ellwood, even though 3rd shift work can lead to depression, people often opt for it because of “Better pay and the ability to accommodate other jobs and school schedules”.

What is 3rd Shift depression? (+3 coping tips)

Why does working 3rd shift cause depression?

Working night shifts has a detrimental effect on one’s mental health particualrly due to the impact working at night has on the circadian rhyth.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, this group of workers who work the 3rd shift  are more at risk for anxiety, depression, and stress than their daytime counterparts. 

In fact, studies have found that night shift workers are 20% more likely to develop a mental health disorder. 

The body’s circadian rhythms—a natural, internal system that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours—are responsible for this. 

When the circadian rhythm is disrupted (for example, during long-term night shift work), it can affect the body’s hormone levels and overall functioning. 

What many people don’t realize is that this disruption also affects mental health and emotional well-being. When late-shift workers are exposed to stimuli in the evening (like light), this creates internal conflict that makes it difficult to fall asleep. 

A recent study analyzed the connection between shift work and the development of depression in workers. The study was conducted over a span of 8 years, with 1,955 participants employed as factory workers at one of two factories in Beijing. 

The participants were categorized as “night shift” workers or “day shift” workers and the results showed that the night shift workers’ risk for developing depression was 1.4 times higher than that for day shift workers. 

According to researchers, a night worker’s circadian rhythm is in conflict with scheudle of natural light and this leads to a situation where the rhythm doesn’t adjust properly and the workers are given only a fewer hours of sleep causing fatigue and exhaustion. 

If this partter of wakefullness and disrupted wakefulness continues, it can bve speculated that it can have a negative impact on the health and wellbeing of the indidvdual. 

A study conducted by Dtsch Arztebl et al 2017, revealed that working night shifts increases the risk of being diagnosed with depression by almost 42%, which is approximately 6% more than for day workers. 

Researchers believe that this is due to sleep disorders and chronobiological factors and is linked to premature aging and chronic fatigue, and insomnia.

3rd shift workers who were also in high stress jobs such as police and loa enforcement had significantly higher levels of stress than those working day shifts. 

Stress adversely affects the overall well-being of an individual and can cause sleeping problems, mood swings, headaches, and many other mental illnesses such as depression. 

Plenty of other research finds that people with night shifts were more likely to report mental health problems than day shift workers. 

They were also more likely to use sleeping aids, sedatives, and painkillers to help them sleep and deal with their aches and pains suggesting poorer health and deterroritating mental well-being. 

How to cope with depression and manage mental health when working the 3rd Shift?

Here are a few things you can do to cope with 3rd shift depression:

Be diligent with self care

Establish a daily routine even on weekends this will provide an individual time to exercise, eat healthy meals, and get enough sleep.

Care for your body like you would care for a friend, with kindness and support. Kindness can mean giving it the rest it needs- sleeping well and taking naps. 

Support can include making nutritious food for your body and enjoying the meal. It can also mean taking a walk or exercising to improve blood circulation, reduce cholesterol, etc. 

The little things you can do for your body can go a long way especially since this friend always tends to return the care and support. 

Research has found that exercising can release feel-good endorphins while eating nutritious food can boost serotonin levels.

Taking care of oneself, even on days when one doesn’t work the late shift. This means eating healthy foods that give you energy, getting enough sleep, and exercising.

Improve sleep hygine

Take time to improve your sleep hygiene. Research has found that sleep disorders are also a core symptom of depression. Irregular sleep and not enough sleep can make your healing process difficult and can even heighten the risk of relapse. 

Some of the things you can do to improve your sleep hygiene are

  • Avoid substances that impact your sleep, this includes caffeine. 
  • Exercise daily
  • Avoid heavy dinners
  • Change your sleeping environment to be more soothing and sleep inducing. 
  • Make changes in your pre-sleep routine such as taking relaxing baths before sleep, avoiding gadgets two hours before sleeping time.

When you are able to get good sleep, you might be able to focus more and be less tired and irritable. There might even be a shift in mood towards more hope and joy.

Invest in blackout shades or curtains or dark rooms if sleeping during the day. Sleeping in a dark environment is important for night-time shift workers especially because it helps your body’s internal clock adjust to the new schedule.

Get some vitamin D

Soaking in the sun to gain vitamin D is the best way to provide the necessary amount required to stay healthy. Vitamin is essential for maintaining and regulating one’s immune system. Therefore, making it a vital vitamin.

Seek professional help

Depression can be deadly if it is left untreated. Many people can struggle with accepting the diagnosis itself while others may find themselves hopeful because of the validation that they aren’t just making up their struggle. 

If you have not been diagnosed, do not stick to self diagnosis based on your symptoms. Seek out professional consultations starting with your GP who can refer you to specialists in the field. 

Once you have been diagnosed, seek help. This means seeking the right kind of doctor and therapist for you. Be patient and take the time to consult with different doctors and professionals who are able to understand what you are going through.

Taking time to find a doctor who can help you with estimating the right dosage of medication and the right medical treatment can make the quality of your journey to recovery drastically different. 

Conclusion

In this blog we have discussed what 3rd Shift depression is. 

We have also breifly discussed how prevalent night shift depression is, how 3rd shift work can impact mental and phsycial health, as well as what one can do to cope. 

FAQ related to 3rd Shift depression

Can working third shift cause depression?

Yes, Working the 3rd shift can cause depression. According to the National Sleep Foundation, this group of workers who work the 3rd shift  are more at risk for anxiety, depression, and stress than their daytime counterparts. When the circadian rhythm is disrupted (for example, during long-term night shift work), it can affect the body’s hormone levels and overall functioning. 

Does night shift affect mental health?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, this group of workers who work the 3rd shift  are more at risk for anxiety, depression, and stress than their daytime counterparts. 

When the circadian rhythm is disrupted (for example, during long-term night shift work), it can affect the body’s hormone levels and overall functioning. What many people don’t realize is that this disruption also affects mental health and emotional well-being. 

How do you fight depression on the night shift?

One of the best things you can do to cope with depression on night shift is to be diligent with self care. Establish a daily routine even on weekends this will provide an individual time to exercise, eat healthy meals, and get enough sleep. The little things you can do for your body can go a long way especially since this friend always tends to return the care and support. 

References

Beth Ellwood. How to Cope with Depression When You Work The Night Shift. Psycom. Retrieved on 30th April 2022. https://www.psycom.net/depression/night-shift-depression

Angerer, P., Schmook, R., Elfantel, I., & Li, J. (2017). Night Work and the Risk of Depression. Deutsches Arzteblatt international, 114(24), 404–411. https://doi.org/10.3238/arztebl.2017.0404

Dtsch Arztebl et al 2017,Night Work and the Risk of Depression ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, retrieved on  16, july 2017, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5499504/

https://parenting.firstcry.com/articles/magazine-10-effects-of-working-night-shift-and-tips-to-stay-healthy/#:~:text=Since%20your%20circadian%20rhythm%20doesn,and%20more%20%E2%80%9Cbad%E2%80%9D%20cholesterol.