Ayurveda recommends people to be active in day time from early morning 4 am to evening 6.00 pm. Our body needs continuous rest for 8 hours in night. Our body clock is adjusted to this rhythm. Anything which alters this poses risk to health.
Circadian rhythm in Ayurveda
Our body functions, like hormone release, body temperature, sleep-wake cycles, etc are caused due to Circadian rhythm which intern controlled by our biological clock. Circadian rhythms are responses of living beings for their surrounding environment, primarily to light and darkness. This rhythm follow a roughly 24 hours cycle and causes physical, mental and behavioral changes.
The biological clock of our body is situated in hypothalamus of brain. This clock is a group of nerve cells called suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN. The SCN controls secretion of hormone melatonin which makes us sleepy. When there is less light , the SCN sends signals to brain to secrete more melatonin. Thus the sleep and wake cycle are in rhythm with night and day.
Hence ayurveda recommends to follow ayurvedic daily routine or “dinacharya” and ayurvedic seasonal routine “rutucharya”, which coexist with Circadian rhythm. Texts of ayurveda explain various remedies to reduce the harmful effects of disturbing this body clock, which is prevalent in shift workers.
Health Risks in Shift Workers
Employees who work in shifts , especially at nights experience sleep disturbances due to disruption in biological clock and disturbance in Circadian rhythm. When these disturbances become chronic, the health of employees gets affected.
Effect on sleep
Employees who work in rotating shifts or exclusive night shifts experience “shift work disorder”. Shift work disorder can lead to Insomnia (lack of good sleep) or excessive sleepiness. This eventually leads to increased risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Psychiatric problems like anxiety and depression may be triggered due to sleep disturbances.
Effect on digestive system
Due to Circadian rhythm the digestive system is active in day and sluggish at night. Awaking at night, impairs digestion. Inadequate sleep and caffeinated drinks taken during night shift, aggravate the problems of digestive system. Indigestion, Acidity and ulcers are very common in employees, who work in night shifts.
According to principles of ayurveda a good and timely sleep nourishes all tissues (dhatu poshana) and balances three doshas (vata dosha, pitta dosha and kapha dosha ). This keeps our body healthy. Proper digestion and nourishment of body tissues boost body energy and helps to develop immunity to diseases. Altered sleep pattern vitiates vayu ,which intern cause degeneration of tissues and imbalance of doshas.
Vayu which gets aggravated due to disturbed sleep dries up the tissues. “ratrau jaagaranam rooksham”. The vitiated vayu causes the following condition.
Either Insomnia or increased sleepiness.
Reduced memory and concentration in work.
Improper digestion or disturbances in digestion.
Low sperm count and sperm motility.
Reduction in quality and quantity of semen.
Irregular menstrual cycle in women.
Ayurvedic Tips to reduce health hazards due to shift work:
Adjust your shift in a definite pattern like – day shift- evening shift- night shift. This slow transition in sleep pattern helps the biological clock to adjust itself for changing shifts.
Keep away from bad habits
Avoid consumption of tobacco, alcohol and caffeine. Tobacco smoking may lead to erectile dysfunction. This helps to retard ageing process and keeps the digestive system healthy. Read Ayurvedic tips to look young
Keep your work place brightly lit during night shifts.
Ayurvedic Diet for shift workers
Ayurveda recommends light foods which are easy to digest and also nutritious. Here is the list of foods which you can consume before going to night shift work.
Consume light food before leaving for night shift. Light foods like
- yavagu (gruel porridge),
- Hot rice, dal and a tea spoon of ghee
- Hot turmeric milk
- Don’t eat curd or yogurt or other fermented food when you work in night shifts.
Avoid junk foods and aerated drinks when you work.
What to do before going to bed after a night shift
Take warm shower before going to bed.
Use blackout blinds or heavy dark coloured curtains to block sunlight when you sleep during the day.
Switch off your mobile phones when you sleep in day. Ask your family members not to disturb you.
Weekend ayurvedic routine for shift workers
Try to spend around 30 minutes daily, for a brisk walk or light work out in gym.
Drink plenty of water to maintain water balance. This increases body moisture level and reduces effects of vitiated vata.
Avoid refrigerated foods and beverages.
Reference : https://oem.bmj.com/content/58/1/68.short
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