According to the Sleep Foundation, nearly one-quarter of all workers have shifts that are not during the daytime, and more than two-thirds of these workers have problems with sleepiness and/or difficulty sleeping. This is a large portion of our population whose health is directly impacted just by what time they go to work. “One-third of shift workers state that they sleep less than 6 hours per night on workdays, and 30% report that they only get a good night’s sleep a few night’s per month or less” (Sleep Foundation). The average adult needs at least 7 hours of sleep to feel rested. And you can’t make up for lost time a few nights out of the month.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified “shift work that involves circadian disruption” as a probable human carcinogen. Insufficient sleep can be the cause of numerous health concerns. Stress, burnout, depression, anxiety disorders, stroke, and cardiovascular problems can all stem from poor sleep habits.

Lack of sleep can also put others at risk. Sleep deprivation has a side effect of feeling drunk. In some professions, like commercial transportation or healthcare, this could be deadly. By being alert and well-rested, employees face fewer errors and faster response time. Accident risk also decreases by 70% from proper sleep.

Now that you’re aware of how serious sleep can be, what can you do about your atypical schedule? If your schedule constantly changes and that’s unavoidable, try looking at how to gradually adjust your sleep pattern. It’s also important to address problems that may affect the quality of your sleep. Getting a free sleep screening can help you identify whether or not you’re at risk of a sleep disorder, like sleep apnea. More than 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder, according to the National Safety Council. This means that even when you get a full 8 hours of rest, your body may not reach a deep enough sleep to make you feel rested. Deep sleep will also help you achieve benefits for your immune system. Sleeping well helps your immune system function more efficiently. Antibodies and cells that fight infection are reduced when you don’t get enough sleep.

An atypical work schedule or shift work can negatively impact your health in many ways, but they don’t have to. Take care of yourself by making sure you get a good night’s rest, consistently.