The Effects of Working the Night Shift on Depression

Updated March 23, 2017

A variety of industries employ workers during the night shift, which requires employees to adjust to an entirely new schedule. Unfortunately, working the night shift can have a significant effect on the prevalence and severity of depression.

Circadian Cycle

A night shift worker essentially reverses their circadian cycle, aiming to sleep during the daytime hours and work during the nighttime hours. According to MSNBC, this causes a variety of metabolic and hormonal problems, including heart disease, diabetes and depression.

Lack of Sunlight

Sunlight helps to regulate blood flow to the brain, along with levels of serotonin and melatonin in the body. Night shift workers commonly do not experience much sunlight, which often results in unbalanced levels of these hormones, resulting in depression, anxiety, and loss of energy.


An article in the August 2007 issue of the SLEEP journal noted that people who work the night shift have significantly lower levels of the chemical serotonin. Low amounts of serotonin greatly increase the risk of depression.


As they adjust into their new schedules, workers on the night shift commonly experience bouts of insomnia or difficulty sleeping. Unfortunately, frequent insomnia is a precursor for depression; the workers feel as though they will never adjust to the new schedule and feel exhausted during most of their waking hours.


Working the night shift commonly causes the employee to miss family functions and social activities. This lack of socialisation and quality family time can result in feelings of guilt, loneliness and depression.

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