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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Don't forget your body's natural rhythm

Rika Kayama

Due to the government's "work-style reform" policies, the world of doctors, which had for so long disregarded set work shifts, has also started to change little by little.

    For example, there were times when most young doctors working the night shift would continue to work the following day, spending 40 or 60 hours straight in the hospital. Recently, though, rules like "once you finish your shift, you must return home in the morning at least once to rest" are starting to appear.

    However, due to these rules, a different kind of issue is starting to develop. As one young doctor said, "At night, I take naps in between handling sudden changes in my patients' conditions. In the morning, I go home, and in the evening I have to go back to the hospital to check on my patients again. During the few hours in between, even if I'm at home, I can't sleep. If that's the case, it would just be better to take a nap during my lunch break at the hospital."

    In either case, overwork worries remain, but humans are obviously not machines. Even if you are told to "stay home for five hours and sleep well during that time," you will hardly be able to do it.

    To sleep well, it is important to take time from your busy schedule, and even if it isn't very long, reserve some time for relaxation. Put aside any thoughts of work, make yourself some tea, listen to some music -- even 20 minutes will do. This time-out allows both your body and brain to go into "oh, I can rest starting now" sleep mode.

    Especially for those who do shift work, there are times when working during the day and relaxing and sleeping during the night can be completely flipped. It's precisely because of this that your body can no longer decide if it's time to work or rest. This can sometimes lead to insomnia, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal issues and other illnesses. I would like shift workers to be aware that they are putting substantial strain on their bodies, and urge them to make relaxation time before bed and take as many complete rest days as possible.

    But even as I say that, I find the line between time for my work and time for myself gradually disappearing. With the development of the internet, even when I come home, I find myself reading and replying to work emails or working and sending manuscripts even right before bed.

    Of course, if I said, "Everyone, even if you wake up early in the morning and spend the day working inside or outside the home, when it gets dark outside, let's stop working and take it slow to get a good night's sleep," making that a reality is no easy task. Even then, "wake up in the morning and sleep at night" is the natural rhythm for humans. I want to at least take care not to forget that. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)


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