A significant number of people are forced to do shift work or work late at night during the time when most people are at home tucked into their beds. Doing shift work can cause major lifestyle disruptions by interfering with time family and normal eating times, but it may have its greatest effect on sleep patterns.
A new study shows that people who work at night or do shift work could benefit from drinking caffeinated coffee – in moderation. According to a new study, drinking caffeinated coffee and other beverages with caffeine helps to reduce the errors that shift workers make due to fatigue.
People Who Work at Night and Do Shift Work Have Altered Body Clocks
Shift work or late night employment causes a disruption in the internal body clock which governs the sleep-wake cycle. This can make it difficult to sleep – and many shift workers suffer from insomnia – or only sleep for short or long periods of time. When this goes on for too long it can lead to chronic sleepiness and fatigue which causes more on-the-job mistakes and, sometimes, serious accidents or injuries. It also makes the drive home after work more dangerous.
Getting Caffeine May Help
Researchers found that shift workers who were given caffeine in the form of caffeinated coffee, foods containing caffeine, energy drinks, or caffeine pills made fewer work related mistakes than those who were given a placebo or allowed to take a nap in lieu of caffeine. Workers who got caffeine also performed better on tests that involved information processing, attention, and memory.
It’s not surprising that drinking caffeinated coffee or getting caffeine from other sources has this effect. Studies show that caffeine increases alertness and improves the ability to focus and concentrate. It also reduces fatigue and sleepiness that can interfere with job performance.
Drinking Caffeinated Coffee Has Its Downsides
On the other hand, there are drawbacks to shift workers drinking caffeinated coffee. Caffeine can make the sleep difficulties worse so that shift workers sleep even less. On top of that, some people experience anxiety, jitteriness, and even tremors when they drink caffeinated coffee or get caffeine from other sources. This could be a problem for people who operate machinery. Plus, it’s not clear how much caffeine is best for boosting mental functioning.
The Bottom Line?
More research is needed more people who work at night should start refilling their coffee cup. In some people, caffeine may reduce errors; it could make the situation worse by causing more sleep problems.