Your company’s night-shift workers have it tough. The human body has evolved to sleep at night and function during the day. Reversing this natural pattern can have serious physiological effects, depending on the individual. The bodily and psychological effects also can strain personal and family relationships, amplifying stress and lowering morale.


Night shift work includes any working hours that deviate from the typical workweek of roughly 40 daylight hours. Some workers work a night shift on a permanent basis, while others rotate night shifts with others. In both cases, shift work can be physically, mentally and socially difficult for employees because they are working against the grain of the typical worker in society.

Lack of Sleep

Your body’s circadian rhythm depends on daylight, among other factors, to regulate your sleep patterns. Night-shift workers encounter less sunlight, so sleep-deprivation and other sleep problems are common. Lack of sleep can increase irritability, making it difficult to interact with family and friends. Insufficient sleep also can have a host of serious health effects, which also put a strain on relationships. For example, studies have found that shift workers are more likely to develop heart disease, according to the book “Psychology A2: The Complete Companion,” by Mike Cardwell and Cara Flanagan.

Lack of Interaction

Shift workers often have difficulty maintaining functional social relationships due to schedule incompatibility. Even on their days off, shift workers might find it hard to break their atypical sleep patterns to participate in family activities, leading to feelings of isolation. When they do manage to stay awake, their energy is likely to be low.


Research shows that night shift work can lead to marital dissatisfaction, family conflict, emotional problems and lower school achievement in children. However, research also shows that some night shift workers find that their odd schedules make it easier to share child care responsibilities. They also might find it easier to participate in daytime activities, such as school and family gatherings, that are unavailable to those who work regular day shifts.