Working shifts? Odd hours? Holidays? Evenings?
In this day and age, shift work is a necessity of life.
But men, here’s the thing: you should already know by now that working irregular shifts can put a damper on your libido, take a toll physically, mentally, and sexually, and ultimately reduce your chances of being able to father children.
That’s not to mention the laundry list of various ailments the lack of adequate sleep has been linked to, such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, for starters.
It is a known fact that the average person needs 7-9 hours of quality sleep on a daily basis.
But given how the evolution of work has taken place, erratic working hours are now a reality that many employees need to manage—and such odd sleep schedules do take a toll on the rest and recovery processes that the body needs. That’s not counting the other factors that interfere with the rest and recovery we get nowadays.
Doctors have found that men performing shift work experience the worst symptoms of such unfortunate sleeping patterns, which interfere not only with the latter, but also when they eat, their exercise habits, and the bodily processes that rely on the body’s natural circadian rhythms.
Worse, the lack of quality sleep has been linked to urological problems such as erectile dysfunction, or ED. Erratic sleep habits may also lead to hormonal imbalances such as low testosterone levels in men. A reduction in testosterone concentrations can wreak havoc on a man’s sex life and fertility, and this is reflected in the plummeting fertility rates in recent years.
Does the science substantiate the claims?
Three studies examined infertility and shift workers. Based on the studies, men working night shifts have drastically lower sperm concentrations than men who didn’t. Therefore, it appears that individuals who get either too much or too little sleep mess with their natural sleep cycles, in effect changing hormonal levels (testosterone included) and genetic expression required for sperm production.
Other studies, meanwhile showed that men with shift-induced sleep issues encountered more frequent urinary problems, significantly worse erection quality, apart from worse manifestations of symptoms of low T, apart from lower testosterone levels in general.
On the other hand, frequent urinary issues found in men working night shifts included incontinence, urination during nighttime, and other symptoms of bladder dysfunction and prostate enlargement. Shift work appears to affect sperm count, symptoms of low T, and urinary symptoms.
However, it must be noted that the current research on shift work is yet preliminary and subject to change, apart from further research.
As shift work varies wildly depending on days off and work schedules, it is exceedingly difficult to ascertain the negative effects of working in shifts. It also must be noted that shift work was not seen to have a correlation with sperm quality.
Shift workers experiencing urological problems may want to look at other potential underlying health reasons for the latter, as there are plenty of causes that may lead to poor bladder function, rather than solely blaming it on shift work.
Excessive or deficient sleep interferes with the body’s natural circadian rhythms. The latter is responsible for managing the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, and cortisol, the hormone commonly associated with stress.
Working on shifting schedules leads to men constantly changing their sleep patterns, resulting in a form of jet lag associated with crossing international date lines and time zones.
Not surprisingly, such disturbances in sleep lead to genetic expression required for sperm production. Irregular sleeping patterns also greatly enhance the risk of contracting sleep disorders such as narcolepsy or insomnia, leading to lower energy, a total reduction in sleep quality, and fatigue brought on by frequent changes to work and sleep schedules.
Worse, lifestyles that involve on irregular sleeping patterns lead to testicular obstructions and blockages that deliver the sperm from the testes where it is produced all the way to the penis, resulting in the absence of sperm in the ejaculate.
It’s abundantly clear that night shift work takes a toll on every aspect of men’s health—physical, mental, and sexual. Fortunately, there is something you can do to manage the effects of working in night shifts. Here’s how.
Rest and recovery tips for night shift workers
Improving sleep quality is often a matter of following good habits such as going to bed at regular hours, improving sleep hygiene by creating an environment conducive to sleeping such as dark rooms, blackout curtains, and the like, and avoiding caffeine or alcohol consumption several hours before bedtime. Moreover, limiting use of mobile devices such as tablets, smartphones, and televisions, apart from unnecessarily bright lights half an hour before bedtime helps.
Here are more tips for night shift workers:
- Refrain from working consecutive night shifts in a row, if at all possible.
- Avoid working frequently rotating shifts.
- Maintain a well-lit workplace to promote mental acuity and alertness.
- Avoid bright lights if at all possible when driving on the way home or preparing for bed. This will allow you to fall asleep faster.
- Do not entertain phone calls or visitors during your designated sleep hours.
- Employ strategies to darken your room, such as heavy curtains or blackout blinds to block sunlight when you need to sleep during the daytime.
- Reduce caffeine and alcohol intake, especially when working night shifts.
- Stick to as much of a regular sleeping and waking schedule as much as you possibly can, and set yourself up for success by making good sleep hygiene a habit.
Low libido is an increasingly common problem in men, and you are not alone. If you’re working night shifts, it’s important to employ simple lifestyle changes such as the ones we have mentioned, apart from adopting good nutritional habits, following a reasonable schedule of rest and recovery, and by engaging in physical activity or exercising on a regular basis. Consult your doctor on how to best manage working in shifts, and ensure you get the proper nutrition from dietary sources and supplements, if necessary. Managing the effects of shift work is possible if you set your mind to it.