Working the night shift: Is it damaging your health?

There are more people working night shifts than ever before, with 3.25 million people contributing to Britain's night economy

Many businesses and services now continue to operate throughout the night to meet the demands of their market as efficiently as possible.

For many people, working nights is a condition that they have to accept comes with their job. For others it's a trade off to do a job they love. For example, the NHS workforce employs more than a fifth of their staff on rotational shift patterns, meaning patients can be provided with around the clock care.

Other night shift services include highways maintenance, professional services such as cleaning or international financial services, supermarkets, taxi drivers and more "traditional" night time work such as bar tenders and club managers.

Why do people want to work at night?

Night workers say that one big benefit of working shifts is the flexibility it gives them. Through working a mixture of days, nights and weekends workers are not limited to the usual 9-5 routine.

Workers on night shifts are also faced with less traffic compared to during the day, making for an easier commute. A lot of people also say that they can work better on a night shift as there are generally less disruptions.

Working during the night also frees up a workers day and can give them more time for 'side projects' - but this often means missing out on sleep.

Taxi drivers are amongst those who work into the early hours of the morning. Credit: PA Images

But do the cons outweigh the pros? Health experts have warned that working irregular shift patterns for prolonged lengths of time can result in workers suffering from a number of health problems.

Health professionals say that working night shifts can interfere with natural processes that occur when we're sleeping. Credit: ITV News Central

What are the risks associated with working at night?

As we sleep, the body repairs injury, reduces stress and removes toxins. Health professionals say that working night shifts can interfere with these natural processes. This can ultimately lead to various disorders including increased risk of breast cancer, increased risk of heart attack and increased risk of depression.

Working nights can lead to fatigue, which is likely to reduce productivity and performance at work. If working with machinery, this can also lead to an increased risk of work place injury.

Our metabolism is controlled by hormones, namely 'leptin' which plays a vital role in managing weight and blood sugar levels. Some experts say that working nights can interfere with the production of this hormone, which can lead to complications such as obesity and diabetes.

Working nights and sleeping during the day can also result in Vitamin D deprivation. Although we can get this vital vitamin from certain foods, we get the majority of it through absorbing it from sunlight - which cannot be done if you're sleeping.