I think we can all agree that feelings of constant fatigue, tiredness, sleepiness and drowsiness certainly comes with the territory when working 24/7. However whilst a good part of this may ring true, it’s important to understand that shift work may not be the only reason that’s causing you to feel like a deflated balloon.
What do I mean by this? Well as I approach my 12 month anniversary since accepting a voluntary redundancy from my shift working job – a position which encompassed over half my life, I was kind of expecting to feel like an Energizer bunny on steroids soon after hanging up my alarm clock for good.
But a funny thing happened.
I didn’t reach that Energizer Bunny status. In fact I didn’t even come close.
In fact these last 12 months have been an interesting journey as I learn more and more about my own health whilst at the same time, embarking on a degree in Nutritional Medicine.
As I’ve since discovered – fatigue can be a funny thing.
When we work shift work we learn to accept that it is what it is, we never query that our tiredness could be attributed to anything other than ongoing sleep deprivation.
And why should we? It’s fairly obvious that sleep is a major contributor, but what if it wasn’t and how would we know?
Well we wouldn’t, unless we went looking for answers.
Which is exactly what I did.
I underwent further testing and had my thyroid checked, my hormones checked, full blood counts checked, inflammatory markers checked along with undergoing a sleep profile to detect for imbalances of cortisol and melatonin within a 24 hour cycle.
The results? I passed with flying colours!
In fact my Integrative Doctor said my thyroid and inflammatory markers were some of the best she’s seen in someone my age so I couldn’t help but feel a little chuffed.
So if that was the case, what was contributing to my lack of energy?
Interestingly a couple of things – some obvious, others not so.
Firstly my iron and vitamin B12 levels were low, and secondly I discovered I have a polymorphism or defective gene called a C677T mutation. This gene is important in the function of the methylation cycle which is an important biochemical pathway which helps with immune function, detoxification, DNA synthesis and you guessed it – energy production!
Whilst it’s nothing really major in the scheme of things, it’s good to actually know what is contributing to my lack of energy (because I can no longer blame shift work!), and that there are things which I can do to help support my body back to a much healthier status.
So the point of my blog post is this.
Whilst sleep deprivation is a major contributor to shift work exhaustion and burn out – it may not be the only thing.
There are a myriad of other reasons which can contribute to fatigue such as inadequate water intake, adrenal insufficiency, a nutrient-calorie ratio imbalance, infections, a depleted immune system, oxidative stress, endocrine dysfunction, vitamin deficiencies including iron, magnesium, folate, water-soluble B group vitamins and much, much more.
So if you’re not feeling 100% or haven’t been feeling quite yourself for a while, please don’t assume that it’s shift work. Whilst it can certainly be a big contributor to your lack of energy and get up and go, it could also be something else which is why we should never underestimate that good old saying – “If in doubt, check it out!”