General Question

flo's avatar

How would the body know if you sleep between 9 pm and 5 am, or any other schedule?

Asked by flo (12974points) June 5th, 2015

They say it is not good for your health to work nights. How/why is that correct? People all over the world sleep when it is dark because they can’t do much without light, they get accustomed to it and it is not easy to switch to stay up at night.

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28 Answers

talljasperman's avatar

Circadian rhythms would be messed up.

bbaljm1990's avatar

Your body constantly is constantly adapting to whatever environment it is in so I feel like anybody can adjust. I remember hearing that you can trick your internal clock by fasting for 12–16 hours and eating at whatever you want your breakfast to be. So the time at which you eat determiens it even more!

JLeslie's avatar

Circadian rhythyms as @talljasperman said. Light and dark cue us when to sleep and when to be awake, along with some other things. Most women ovulate in the late afternoon, that’s part of the cycle of hormones as they rise and fall, including sleep hormones. Screwing with the usual sleep cycle screws up all sorts of things. Part of the problem, I believe, is the world functions on people being awake during the day, and so nightshift workers often have more difficulty getting enough or good sleep, because they still have to run errands and do certain appointments during their sleep hours. Imagine if you had to go to the doctor and supermarket at 5am. That’s what it’s like for them going to the doctor or supermarket at 1pm.

Fairly recently there was a study showing that nightshift workers have a harder time getting glucose levels back down, making them more susceptable to insulin resistance and diabetes.

Some people seem to be naturally nocturnal, but that doesn’t change that their children have to be dressed and ready to go to school in the morning, church services are when they want to sleep, doctors make appointments when they want to sleep, and friends and relatives are mostly awake when they want to sleep, most restaurants are not 24 hours, except for what are usually unhealthy ones. They don’t get to sleep, socialize, eat, and work in a way that has been found to be healthier.

ibstubro's avatar

People can adapt to working the night shift, and thrive, you just have to find a fit.

When I started working in a 24 hour, 3 shift factory I had to start on an ‘off shift’. I chose 3–11pm because, sure, you get off late, but not that late, and I’m a ‘morning’ person. But I’m also unable to go home and go directly to bed. Before long I was getting home 11:30 – 12, watching crap TV until 1 – 2am and getting up tired at 10–11. After noon before I was out and about and my shift started at 2:30. Zero life.
One day a guy finally (it took a lot) talked me into working 11p – 7a, which I swore I’d never do. WOW! When I got off work, there was my morning. Stay up until 1 – 2p, up at 8 – 9 for breakfast and I had one long, full day. I liked it better than day shift.

I think humans can adapt to working at night easily enough if they have flexibility (it can be hard with spouse/kids) and they’re sensible about it.

Pandora's avatar

As already pointed out by @talljasperman, it really has to do with Circadian rhythms and I believe with the lack of sunlight. @ibstubro pointed out that the night shift was better for him. But I noticed that he stayed up for a while while the sun was out and got up while the sun was out as well. I know some people who would go to bed in the early morning and wake up mid day. So when they went woke up they were probably tired because they probably went to bed about 6 or 7 am and woke up about 1 or 2 pm. Lots of hours to go before work. That may upset the balance. Also, lack of sun light may also upset the balance or sleeping in a really bright room during the day.

So many things can make the schedule messed up. People who work nights have to make day appointments. Appointments that may interfere with their scheduled day time sleep.
Or , like in the military, they may rotate the night shift every two weeks. Really messing up a persons sleep schedule.
I think we also get use to certain light cues to help us adapt. I know when I went to Japan, I was surprise how easily I adjusted. By the second day I was in bed by 9 and awake when the sun rose. I was full of energy all day. I don’t do it here, but I noticed the sun seemed to rise earlier in Japan and go down earlier. I’m typically a night person. So the time their seemed more on cue for my sleep comfort.

Some people are simply night people, but I do need to be out in bright sunlight for a few hours to sleep well. Winters and long rainy weeks wreak my circadian rhythms. I suspect the lack of sunlight for my body ruins my sleep patterns. Some people may not be as sensitive.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

AS others pointed out one can adapt quite well, the grunt and throwing your body off rhythm is swing shifting, like 2 weeks your on the midnight to 8:00 am ,then the next 2 weeks your on the 8am to 4:30pm shift that is hard to adapt to.
If you can just stay on a shift you can build your sleep and life around it.

josie's avatar

Everything you know about external reality is based on the information you integrate from your senses.
Of all the information you get from your senses, the one you get the most information from is your vision.
Since human beings can not see in the dark, we are clearly daylight creatures.
Humans can invent all sorts of artificial light and means of seeing in the dark but we are still daylight creatures.
Therefore, pursuing existence in the dark is contrary to our nature, and thus subject to risk.
Working the night shift is an argument with with Nature.
Nature does not make bargains. You break with Nature’s rules, you lose.

flo's avatar

If most people can adapt to any period of the day to sleep, then it can’t be nature. Even if it’s not most people, it wouldn’t be nature. Besides humans conquer a lot of what was considered nature (therefore “impossible to change”) all the time.

Our health is related to what we eat and avoid eating, whether or not we exercise how much we exercise, for example, not whether or not we sleep when it’s dark out.

JLeslie's avatar

@flo That’s not what studies say. Here is a link for webmd on the topic. They define shift work loosely though for this article. Anything outside of 9–5 M-F. I personally prefer a varied schedule. I worked retail for years which had at list one late shift per week and sometimes I worked three days in a row, sometimes five, sometimes just one. Now I work a job that should be 9–5 but my boss let’s me get away with coming in late, working late a different day, and I actually really wish I could change it more than I do.

flo's avatar

@JLeslie Look at posts by @bbaljm1990 and @ibstubro and @SQUEEKY2. I agree with them.

JLeslie's avatar

@flo It doesn’t matter who you agree with. I was telling you what studies show. Some people in the studies won’t have ill effects, it isn’t a for certain thing, it’s averages. Most people don’t realize what harm is done until later in life.

flo's avatar

@JLeslie All kinds of studies have been found to be garbage, later on.

flo's avatar

@JLeslie It’s hi-lie-ree-yes, “it doesn’t matter who you agree with”, you did the same thing You agreed with Webmd.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@flo “All kinds of studies have been found to be garbage, later on.”

Appeal to ignorance fallacy. Just because something might turn out to be false does not mean that we should reject it when all available evidence supports it. There are multiple studies from multiple sources corroborating @JLeslie‘s point. So while our acceptance of any scientific consensus should always be provisional (due to the fallibilistic nature of science), the rational and intelligent person does not reject evidence solely on the basis that it could be mistaken.

“It’s hi-lie-ree-yes, ‘it doesn’t matter who you agree with,’ you did the same thing. You agreed with Webmd.”

No. What @JLeslie did was provide evidence that happened to be in the form of an article on the WebMD. She’s not just agreeing with someone’s opinion, she’s backing up her point with scientific evidence. If you cannot understand the difference, then it’s no surprise that you regularly spew ignorance all over this website.

Furthermore, it’s worth noting that what @JLeslie and @josie have said does not actually contradict what @bbaljm1990, @ibstubro, and @SQUEEKY2 have said. Your confusion on this score seems to come down to a misunderstanding of what it means to say that something comes from nature. You gloss this here as meaning “impossible to change,” but you also seem to have a very broad interpretation of what “change” means. One can adapt to something without changing it (e.g., people who adapt to losing a limb). Therefore, your claim that “if most people can adapt to any period of the day to sleep, then it can’t be nature” is simply a non sequitur (for those keeping score at home, that’s another fallacy).

Now let’s look back at the actual claims that were made. Here’s what @josie said: “pursuing existence in the dark is contrary to our nature, and thus subject to risk” (emphasis added). “Subject to risk” is not the same thing as “impossible.” It just means that the adjustment will cost you—and that’s what @JLeslie‘s studies point out: there are risks and costs to a nocturnal lifestyle. It’s possible to pull it off, and some people will have an easier time of it than others. But there are no guarantees. Pretty straightforward, really.

flo's avatar

@SavoirFaire I have already shown it in other threads.

JLeslie's avatar

@flo As @SaviorFaire pointed out, I myself have worked irregular schedules and tend to prefer it.

flo's avatar

@JLeslie Hi-lie ree-yes again, what @SavoirFaire did is demonstrate that her skill is that of a defense lawyer. she never pointed out that you preferirregualr shifts

flo's avatar

….I mean her or his skill.


You don’t think it’s more important to address my response to you that some studies have been found to be garbage?

JLeslie's avatar

I have no quarrel that some studies are junk, but it makes perfect sense to me that nightshift workers on average suffer health effects. I know a lot of people who do shift work and many of them do suffer in some ways. Many of them are severely sleep deprived. Most of them use a lot of caffeine. More than one of them use sleep aids. A lot of people use those things and work 9–5, but it wouldn’t surprise me if third shift workers abuse those things more. Not everyone, I just mean averages.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@flo “I have already shown it in other threads.”

Without any indication of what “it” refers to here, all you have here is a faulty pronoun reference (which makes it barely counts as English, let alone an argument). As far as I can tell, you’re basically telling me that you left your answer in your other pants. Well then, go get it. We’re having this discussion here, so don’t expect me—or anyone else—to have already waded through all of your answers (wherever they may be).

“What @SavoirFaire did is demonstrate that her skill is that of a defense lawyer.”

You pull this one out every time I point out how completely flawed your reasoning is. It gets old, and it was never really new to begin with. What I demonstrated was that your argument—as presented on this thread—has absolutely no merit. It fails on a basic logical level. I get that this sort of criticism is uncomfortable to receive, but it is neither an insult nor mere intellectual noodling. Having a coherent argument is the first step towards convincing someone of anything. It’s what makes this a discussion rather than a rant or a lecture. We’re not here to listen to you pontificate. But if you have an actual argument, then I’m all ears.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@flo I take it that means you don’t actually have a coherent argument, then? Well, so be it.

flo's avatar

@SavoirFaire bye again. In the meantime, you can answer:
or tons of other questions

flo's avatar

…that haven’t been answered yet, or others that have been responded to. After all you just want to reduce ignorance, right? Let hope you’ll find one that doesn’t force anyone to be hostile, insulting etc.

flo's avatar

…i.e let hope you’ll find one (without a post of mine in there) that forces anyone to be hostile insulting, etc.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@flo It seems you do not understand the meaning of the word “bye.” That usually signals a departure from the conversation, yet you seem unable to stay away. In any case, I have been answering other questions within the same time frame that I have been responding to this one. As such, I don’t really need your prompting to do so. But if you find it insulting to be asked for a coherent argument or to be presented with facts that contradict your position, then I am afraid you will never find conversation to your liking. All that sort of attitude is fit for is fascism and sophistry.

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