The 21st century is best characterized by the advent of ultra-modern technology, global trade and business, and an unstoppable desire to move forward. Due to these factors, business firms compete in a world where the economy is active 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This phenomenon created a demand for employees who would also work at night until the wee hours of the morning. This work schedule has reversed employee lifestyles, making the day their time for sleep.
The changes can disrupt normal body functions, hinder sleep cycles, and lower the body’s serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter found in the central nervous system and affects multiple functions such as mood, sleep, sexuality and appetite. This neurotransmitter can also promote cell regeneration.
Studies show that workers who don’t work day shifts tend to have lower levels of the “feel-good” hormone serotonin. Researchers at the University of Buenos Aires led by Dr. Carlos J. Pirola studied 683 men and compared 437 day workers with 246 shift workers. The results, the serotonin levels of the shift workers, measured by blood tests, were significantly lower than those of regular hours. In addition to lowering serotonin levels, shift workers have also been found to have higher cholesterol levels, hip-to-waist ratios, increased blood pressure, and higher triglyceride levels.
As serotonin levels manage sleep patterns and other bodily functions, the University of Buenos Aires study suggested that shift work can also lead to so-called shift sleep disorder. People with this disorder tend to stay awake when they should be sleeping. These people can be very tired during the waking hours. This disorder occurs due to a work schedule that takes place during the normal sleep period. For this reason, people who have difficulty falling asleep because their bodies are still programmed to be awake. The time to sleep and to be awake is different from what the body’s internal clock expects.
Other studies have also found that night and non-standard work can affect the cardiovascular and metabolic systems. These studies suggest that there is a possibility that shift work is directly responsible for hypertension and increased body fat, according to researchers from the Buenos Aires study. In addition to disrupting sleep patterns, lowered serotonin levels are also linked to other conditions such as stress, anxiety and depression.
Lifestyle changes can improve serotonin levels. In order for serotonin levels to be consistent, sleep patterns must be consistent and diets must include the vitamins and minerals needed to control serotonin levels. Certain medications and substances such as caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and antidepressants should be avoided as they can reduce serotonin production.
People who want to improve their serotonin levels can use medications to help them in their goal. The 5-HTP amino acid can be taken as a supplement and improves the body’s ability to produce serotonin. The body uses another amino acid called L-tryptophan to make serotonin. However, before taking these supplements, patients are advised to seek approval from doctors and other healthcare professionals. People who choose to work at night must maintain adequate rest to reduce the harmful effects that can develop. Healthy lifestyles and nutritious diets can improve serotonin levels and improve quality of life.