Night shift depression (+5 coping tips)

In this blog-post, we will talk about night shift depression. We will cover why do night shift depressions happen, how do night shifts affect the well being of a person and ways in which one can overcome this kind of depression.  

What is night shift depression?

In simple words, it is the depression caused as a result of working during the night hours- typically meant for sleeping. Health administrators note that lack of sleep can cause a variety of health issues, both physical and mental. Individuals with sleep problems like insomnia are much more likely to be diagnosed with clinical depression or anxiety, for example, and individuals with disturbed. 

But a physical disorder is not the sole culprit to experience sleep obstacles. Working the night shift ruins the natural sleep rhythms of your body and your ability to have a schedule parallel to the rest of the world, both of which can lead to hampered quality of sleep and life.

Signs one could have night shift depression 

Watch out for these signs and symptoms to see if you are a night worker. Given below are strong indicators for action to be taken against depression. 


Feeling exhausted during work hours and non-work hours is one of the main symptoms of depression in night shift workers. This is mainly due to lack of sleep but also due to poor quality of sleep during the time you are actually sleeping. Rest and recovery is important for good health and feeling exhausted is a sign your body gives you as a warning sign. 

Worsened mood

Because of exhaustion, lack of energy and inability to be or feel lively the general mood of the night worker may worsen. If you are feeling irritable, angry, restless and grumpy signs are that you heading towards the mental illness. Notice how often you snap out on your family, friends and coworkers without any particular valid reason.    

Sleep disorders

Along with lack of sleep and poor sleep quality (during working and non-working hours) there can be sleep disorders that one may develop. Sleep disorders like insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome become common among nightshift workers. Individuals with sleep apnea were five times more at risk for depression.

Some people have a tough time with nightmares too. This could lead to depression or could be an indication of depression.  

Because you are running on a clock that is different from the majority of the world which could include your family members or close friends, chances are that there can be conflicts regarding time management. The stress at work can easily come into the home environment especially because there is an added stress to your sleep and health as well. The same can happen at work too because you are unable to devote adequate time for private responsibilities, you are missing out on family events and gatherings which can make you unhappy. 

It is important to communicate, both at home and work about your difficulties so that people can be as accommodating as they can be. 

Poor overall health 

The stress and upside-down lifestyle surely affects all aspects of one’s health and quality of life. Notice what kind of bodily, mental, social and psychological problems your work is causing you.  

How do night shifts affect the well-being of the person?

All living creatures on this planets follow a circadian rhythm. What is that and why is that coming in between the topic of night shift depression, you may ask? 

Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle .i.e. the earth’s rotation. These natural processes respond primarily to light and dark and affect most living things, including animals, plants, and microbes. They help flowers and leaves of plants to open and close at the right time and keep nocturnal animals, like bats, from leaving their shelter during the daytime when they would be easily exposed to being hunted down. 

The commonly used term to describe the circadian rhythms is “body’s internal clock”. And, night shifts are all about breaking or disrupting the normal, healthy circadian rhythm that we are meant to and designed to follow. 

The endogenous circadian rhythm has its hands on many bodily functions including our need for sleep and wakefulness, the body temperature,our heart rate, the blood pressure, and hormone levels, particularly levels of cortisol and melatonin. It also affects our digestive system causing bowel movement disorders and overall increasing the vulnerabilities of our body to inflammations.  

So now, do you see how night shifts manage to affect the health of a person?

Some tips to manage nightshifts at work

If night shifts are completely unavoidable consider the following tips to ensure better functioning as you manage pulling all-nighters. These tips will ensure you protect not only your physical health but your mental health too.  

Stay away from becoming dependent on caffeine

Coffee is not anybody’s best friend! Sorry to burst your bubble but that had to be done. 

Not only night shift workers but others too rely on coffee way too much to lengthen their waking hours. While it may prove to serve your purpose it does only damage to your body. Caffeine not only interferes with sleep, but makes it even harder to rest after your shift is done. If you do use caffeine during your shift, switch to decaf beverages a few hours before the shift ends.

Revel in some rest breaks and power naps during the night

Train your body to take power naps and use it during your night shifts. Even if you have a sum total of half an hour break, take it for napping. Pick a quiet corner, close your eyes, straighten your body comfortably and nap! Your brain will thank you not just because you are sleeping but also because you gave it the boost it required to think well when you get back to work again. 

Back at home, create a good sleep environment 

Like mentioned earlier, our bodies understand the circadian rhythm based on light and dark times of the day. As a night worker, your body is not getting the rest it needs during the dark times so you have to create the dark environment during the light hours so that your body eases into a good sleep. Use dark coloured curtains in your room to block sunlight and turn off phones and alarms. Communicate with family members or room mates on how a sleep schedule is important for you and what kind of support they can offer while you are getting some sleep. 

 It is important to sleep during the day because otherwise fatigue will cause sleepiness during the night at workplace.   

Make night shifts fun for you 

Just because you are working in the nights doe not mean the work environment has to be grim and unexciting. Get acquainted with your coworkers, laugh with them and help each other to sail through the night. It helps in staying awake without caffeine and also ensures healthy work conditions and relationships which will ensure lesser risks of depression.   

Communicate and seek help

If you’re feeling the night shift is not your cup of tea because you are utterly exhausted all the time, ask for help from administrators or supervisors or the HR department where your grievances will be paid heed to. And if you’re experiencing any signs of depression, continue reading and find answers in the next section of this blog. 

How to overcome nightshift depression?

If you feel you are going into depression or an in depression because of your erratic work hours and long hours of sleeplessness, do the following things. 

Listen to your body and its needs

This is not the time and place to be heroic. If your body is signalling you to change your way of functioning, listen to it. Our bodies are very smartly designed to communicate to us about what is wrong with our way of life. It might give you a slight cold, fever, diarrhea to tell you to change what you are eating, get some rest, keep the temperature around your warmer, etc or take it to the extreme where you require hospitalisation because of problems in organ functions. It all depends on how good or bad you treat your own body. 

Listening to our body ensures that we do not go against nature’s set ways designed for our highest good. 

Consult a psychiatrist 

A psychiatrist can prescribe medication, for example, antidepressants based on the severity of the condition of the person. Antidepressants are an important part of recovery and going to a professional should not be delayed. Be sure you talk to the psychiatrist about all your symptoms, including sleep hygiene, disturbances in sleep, nightmares, fatigue, etc.    

Seek mental health therapy 

Consulting a counselor/ psychotherapist is essential in mental health issues. This, most often, goes hand in hand with medication based on the severity of depression. 

A counselor can bring in newer ways of perception, help the person to emote better while engaging in healthy boundary-making. Discussions with a counsellor can also include how to be better at being assertive with your superiors, if they are the ones who are enforcing long work hours/ nightshifts on you. The counselor can also help the person reframe their irrational thoughts and beliefs into healthier ways of  thinking and being. The counselor and the client, together, also work on and construct healthier coping mechanisms against stressors for the client. 

Improve lifestyle choices and work towards good health

Health is a concept with many interlinkages and it is also all-encompassing. One can’t expect to have good mental health if their physical health is deteriorating and vice-versa. Exercising, healthy eating habits, good sound sleep, and practicing mindfulness, along with any medication/therapy if need be, can help attain victory over any condition, including depression.


In this blog-post, we talked about night shift depression. We looked at why do night shift depressions happen, how do night shifts affect the well being of a person and ways in which one can overcome this kind of depression.  

Frequently asked questions: Night shift depression

Do nightshifts shorten your life?

Some researchers have found that the women who worked on rotating night shifts for more than five years were up to 11% more likely to have died early compared to those who never worked these shifts.

Do night shift workers get sick more often?

Health experts say that problems arising from working on night shifts reduces the body’s natural rhythms, immunity levels and increases inflammation and susceptibility to viral infections. 


Angerer, P., Schmook, R., Elfantel, I., & Li, J. (2017). Night Work and the Risk of Depression. Deutsches Arzteblatt international, 114(24), 404–411. 

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