Experts say shift work can age your brain, affect mental health

Experts say shift work can age your brain, affect mental health

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Many people work long hours with irregular schedules, but from factory workers to nurses to news anchors, it may be time for all of us to think about our health as well as our jobs.

A new study finds working odd hours can not only affect your social life but also hinder your ability to think.

Factory worker Steve Puchbauer says working a swing schedule gets old.

"I look for the time I can retire and sleep every night and never see the sun come up unless I want to get up at 5 a.m.," Puchbauer said.

Puchbauer says he's been working swing schedules for more than 14 years.

"You're fatigued a lot and you have trouble getting along with people. Your patience runs a little thin," Puchbauer said.

But he says from firemen to dispatchers to nurses and doctors it's nice to know he's not alone.

"[There are a] million other people working nights so that kind of helps get you through the night as well," Puchbauer said.

Experts say those who work odd hours may need a little more than that to keep them healthy.

"There's a type of sleep deprivation that happens even if you get 8 hours of sleep because the sleep is not the quality," Dr. David Van Pelt with Applied Psychological Center said.

Dr. Van Pelt says that can actually prematurely age and harm your brain.

"A lag in cognitive processing," Dr. Van Pelt said.

He says that's why it's important to take steps to stay healthy. He suggests using black out curtains, wearing sunglasses on your drive home, eat healthy and exercise, take melatonin supplements and, if things don't improve, ask a mental health professional.

But with shift work hours, that may be easier said than done, still worker Raymond Taylor says it's worth it. Taylor says despite the crazy hours, he makes health a top priority.

"I came off the night shift last night, went straight to the gym," Taylor said.

He says staying mentally and physically fit makes all the difference.

"Listen to what your body is telling you. That's what you need to do," Taylor said.

Taylor and Puchbauer say there are definitely upsides to working swing schedules, like running errands on your days off during the week. Taylor says he gets to attend more of his kids' day-time school activities.

If you has questions for a mental health provider, you can reach Dr. Van Pelt at 573-334-3329.

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