Do you know someone who does shift work? Maybe a nurse, firefighter, emergency physician, police officer, or someone else? Well, this might be one of the most useful articles that they’ll ever read.
The challenges of working night shift
It has been well-established that working night shift for extended periods of time can be disadvantageous to health. Some of the poor health outcomes associated with night shift include an increased risk of obesity and heart disease, digestive upsets, diabetes and possibly even an increased risk of some cancers (1). Shift workers get, on average, two to three hours less sleep than other workers. They often sleep though the day in two split periods, a few hours in the morning and then an hour or so before going to work at night. Night workers can find it difficult sleeping during the day (particularly in Australia). It’s difficult to keep the sleep environment dark, free of noise and relatively cool (1).
From the Ayurvedic perspective, working nights puts a significant strain on the nervous system to adapt to a lifestyle against the grain of nature’s rhythms. There are hormonal cycles that wax and wane throughout the day that allow us to eat, sleep, rise in the morning and tire at night – all according to our connection to the natural cycles. And while some researchers say we adjust to night work, it is a proven challenge for the nervous system to sustain for the long haul.
How adaptogens can help
Adaptogens are types of herbs that have been used therapeutically for thousands of years, but the word ‘adaptogen’ wasn’t coined until the 1960s by Drs. Israel Brekhman and Nikolai Lazarev, two Russian scientists who were studying plants. They found that certain herbs were particularly good at adapting to and surviving in harsh conditions and had been helping humans to do the same for a very long time. In traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, they may have been called tonics or elixirs because of their wide-ranging benefits.
Adaptogens may be able to provide some support for night workers to help mitigate the chronic stress of night work, due to their ability to normalise body functions. With their ability to restore harmony among the processes that drive our bodies on a daily basis, adaptogens offer a rejuvenating, holistic path to wellness.
Adaptogens that support your body during stress
Ionix® Supreme contains a blend of powerful adaptogens that have been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine to combat the effects of stress. Here are some of the adaptogens found in Ionix Supreme and how they can help support the body during times of stress, including the physiological stress of shift work.
Ashwagandha: Recent human studies confirm that withanolides (the active components in the plant) when ingested either in dried form or in extract form, are responsible for most of ashwagandha’s health benefits (2, 3, 4, 5). These chemicals adjust the body to provide an effective way to handle stress, which can help to improve quality of life, support normal function of the body, build immunity, normalise cardiorespiratory and neuromuscular coordination and assist in coping with fatigue and building strength in men and women (2, 3, 4).
Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea): A plant that grows in the coldest regions of the world, including Northern Asia. It’s been used as a herbal medicine in several centuries in Russia and Scandinavia to increase physical endurance, improve energy levels and help resist high altitude sickness. In clinical trials, Rhodiola has been shown to help strengthen the body’s resistance to stress (6).
Bacopa (Bacopa monniera): A plant popular in traditional Indian medicine practices for the enhancement of memory and to promote longevity. Preclinical studies have shown it to have antioxidant and adaptogenic effects on the central nervous system (7-9).
Siberian ginseng (Eleuthero): From the 1940s through the 1960s, Soviet scientists conducted clinical research and made eleuthero part of the regimen of Olympic athletes claiming it helped with exercise performance and quicker recovery after a competition (10). World pharmacopoeias describe it as a tonic to help in cases of decreased performance because of fatigue and sensation of weakness (10). It has been shown to enhance vigour and improve general health.
The stresses of working night shift are unlikely to disappear (unless you quit your job) but we can provide our body with the nutrition it needs to better manage the physical response to stress. Prime your body daily with the blend of adaptogens in Ionix Supreme for optimal stress protection and overall health.
- Edwards, S., I. da Costa-Rocha, E.M. Williamson and M. Heinrich, Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal (Solanaceae) Phytopharmacy – an evidence-based guide to herbal medicines. Wiley, Chichester, 2015, 32-35
- Williamson E. Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal (Solanaceae) In: Major Herbs of Ayurveda. Churchill Livingstone; 2002, 321-325.
- Joshi Krutika, Swagata Tavhare, Kalpesh Panara, et al, Study of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera Dunal) Krutika, International Journal of Pharmaceutical & Biological Archives 2016; 7 (1): 1- 11.
- White P.T., Subramanian C., Motiwala H.F., Cohen M.S. (2016) Natural Withanolides in the Treatment of Chronic Diseases. In: Gupta S., Prasad S., Aggarwal B. (eds) Anti-inflammatory Nutraceuticals and Chronic Diseases. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, vol 928. Springer, Cham, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-41334-1_14.ashwas
- 7.Darbinyan V, Kteyan A, Panossian A, Gabrielian E, Wikman G, Wagner H. Rhodiola rosea in stress induced fatigue–a double blind cross-over study of a standardized extract SHR-5 with a repeated low-dose regimen on the mental performance of healthy physicians during night duty. Phytomedicine 2000;7:365-71.
- Uabundit N, Wattanathorn J, Mucimapura S, Ingkaninan K. Cognitive enhancement and neuroprotective effects of Bacopa monnieri in Alzheimer’s disease model. J Ethnopharmacol 2010;127:26-31. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2009.09.056
- Morgan A, Stevens J. Does Bacopa monnieri improve memory performance in older persons? Results of a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial. J Altern Complement Med 2010;16:753-9.
- Roodenrys S, Booth D, Bulzomi S, Phipps A, Micallef C, Smoker J. Chronic effects of Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) on human memory. Neuropsychopharmacology 2002;27:279-81.
- Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products (HMPC), Community herbal monograph on Eleutherococcus senticosus (Rupr. et Maxim.) Maxim). London, UK: European Medicines Agency; 2014.