Could shift work be making me worse??

Morning everyone, now I’m not moaning about my situation as I know I’m a lot better than many people with MS but I sem to be on a steady decline, even my colleagues say that “you seem to be getting worse” and thats almost month on month. I’m a police officer and as such work shifts, I was chatting to someone yesterday who suggested that if I were to come off shifts and and just work through the day it MAY help in slowing things down. Does anyone have an opinion before i suggest to work that’s want I need to to, I’d be interested to hear your comments. AB

Hi Alpha Bravo It is so not good for the body to keep shifting your body clock pattern. My husband does not have MS but has worked shifts since '99 as a journalist for the FT, then at weekends he goes back to a ‘normal’ day. This has really not helped his health at all. He hasn’t ever been as fit and well since before he started this but loves the job so carries on. I can imagine that with MS that this could easily lead to deterioration as when people sleep during the day they do not get the same rest they need from nightime darkness ( I don’t remember the scientific name for this, someone else probably will). Getting proper rest would surely improve things! Hth Teresa xx

Hi AB,

I worked for 26 years at Heathrow doing shifts but never in the last 20 years worked a night shift; they are a killer.

I presume you do not get shit pay so working permanent days would not affect your wages so I would suggest you go for it.

I’m sure your management will be very helpful. I’m not sure on this point but I know the military were exempt from the old Disabled Discrimination Act (DDA) that became The Equalities Act (EA). I have it in the back of my mind the Police were as well.

I only mention this as you are then relying on the common sense of your superiors and cannot ask for ‘reasonable adjustments’ to be made as written in the (EA).

Sorry to mention this; your management are probable understanding and helpful it’s just the old Union rep comes out in me now and again.

Go for it.


The (filtered word) was shift pay; obviously very rude


The Police are covered by the DDA, they don’t like it but have to run with it, the management where I am are to be fair very good with my situation, thats probably because I only ever take time off when I really need it opposed to people sneezing then being off for two weeks with “flu”.

I was doing Earlies, Lates & Nights but about a year ago went to just Lates so there is a bit of routine, I always start at 1500 but finishing between 2300 and 0300 can be a ball ache, especially as when I’m not working I live “normal hours” dealing with the kids and going to bed when you’re supposed to.

The person i was chatting to last night was saying that shift work is not good for anyone and when you’re unwell it can only be worse, she talks a lot of sence this one!

Hi A.B

I work in Police environment too… the Ops Room. Full time shift work was OK for me 13 years ago… it was the old shifts then…06X14… 14X22… 22X06… 7 nights… quick turn overs… HELL… but I worked like a demon and loved every minute of it !!!

13 years later… Im still there, we have had all our shifts changed, and I now work 11X19… 5 on and 5 off. Its still mentally exhausting… but its bearable just.

Speak to your Occy Health… im sure that your Force will have a Disability Network… and speak to your Fed Rep. Im sure that you have done all this… Im sure that if your Force looked hard enough there would be a vacancy for you in an Office… training school maybe ?

MS is a B******… shift work is HELL… DDA is your best friend. Managment dont like them… but they cant afford to say ‘no’ to them either !

Keep Us posted.



Hi AB I work shift work too, and Im finding it harder and harder! Occy health have said I shouldn’t do nights anymore as it plays havoc with symptoms and fatigue. I think that you need to find the pattern that works for you and stick to it, surly your employers have to occomodate you on this? Good luck Ppx

For me, the best example of why shift work is not good for anyone is that modafinil is approved for shift workers and this is the med that MSers struggle to get for fatigue these days!

The (abridged) theory bit though:

Melatonin regulates our sleep-wake cycle in tandem with bits of the brain that monitor sleepiness and fatigue. It is regulated by (natural) light. Shift workers basically have to ignore this natural cycle so that it becomes really mixed up. (You may be on fixed shifts, but your days off having different hours makes it the equivalent to shift work.)

There is evidence that some MSers have problems with this system (one of the factors in MS fatigue), so you potentially have a double whammy going on.

Sleep is a fundamental requirement for health. Studies of sleep deprivation have shown that it can lead to mental and physical problems (and even death!). All sorts of essential bodily systems break down without proper, regular sleep.

So, while some MSers might be fine with shift work, it’s probably a bad idea for most of us: our bodies are already fighting on all fronts; they need all the help they can get.

Karen x


The (filtered word) was shift pay; obviously very rude


[/quote] my sincere apologise to the computer; Val pointed out I spelt shift without the ‘f’.




I gave up shift work as a nurse a very long time ago as I felt the constant drive to make me do a late followed by an early, then a couple of nights then back to lates and earlys was contributing to my problems. It slowed the problems down for a number of years.

I have managed MS since 2008 with no further relapses since then (when I had 2 relapses both lasting 4 months each, 1 of which i lost the use of both my hands) but I can honestly say that getting regular sleep and listening to my body keeps me ticking along ok (as ok as you can be with MS anyway). Everyone is different but I would personally never do shift work cos I know it would really affect me. But then people do it and cope ok. When I feel some decline in my health, I stop and simplify things, and it works generally…hope that helps??

I used to do shift work - 8-1600, 1600-2400, 0000-0800 - really couldn’t handle it now, but rest does help our MS and shift work, mucks up the body clock, I read somewhere that people who did shifts suffered from more stress, so would advise against it. 8-4 for me now and I still get whacked…rest up and take it easy…

Hello, I’m a retired police officer, I did my 30 years although I was off sick for the last six months because of my ms although at that stage I had not been diagnosed. In fact I was only diagnosed three months after I retired but that’s another story, however when it became apparent I probably had ms I asked my gp about work, and shifts, his response was to carry on as normal and that he didn’t think shift work was an issue, not like it would be for, say, a diabetic. Although my gp also admitted he didn’t “know too much” about ms.

So I tried to carry on, until a rather spectacular fall persuaded my gp to sign me off sick.

I had worked shifts all my service, apart from about four years when I was desk bound and didn’t work nights, but did the lates and the evenings.

I don’t know which force you are in and things may have changed since I retired at the beginning of 2006, but I think the important thing is how you feel about it and how you are coping with it. If you are anything like me and don’t sleep well because of the constant changes of duty then the fatigue could be a real issue, which as well as affecting your own well being could also affect your performance at work, and I certainly remember perfomance indicators and the like!

When I told my line manager of my possible ms I was assured I would see the FME with a view to considering alternative duties. However that didn’t happen until I had been off sick for six weeks, and as I had made no secret of the fact that I was finishing as soon as I had done my 30 years he simply backed me and my gp up by saying there was nothing for me in the way of a phased return to work or restricted duties.

So, sorry to be long winded, but as I say, the important thing is you and how you and your family are coping with the ms and the stresses of the job combined with the stresses and difficulties of working shifts. Speak to your line manager, and/or your gp.

With my very best wishes.

Hi I was a nurse for nearly 20 years working nights when I had my boy. I didnt know then that I had ms but I was constantly exhausted and used to drag my leg around at the end of the shift. I was young at the time and I couldnt understand why I was always so tired and I never seemed to recover on my days off. Shift work isnt good for anyone research has shown there is an increase in breast cancer in women who work shifts and nights. I dont think its good for you. You want to carry on working so I would try and get your employers to place you on days. From my experience with the police they are usually well looked after so I think you would be ok. You need to pace yourself and look afteryourself. Im only saying this because i carried on until one night I just couldnt move my legs just went so stiff I had to be taken home. I had to give up work which I miss terribly . At the time I didnt know it was ms and I wonder if I had known and hadnt tried to work all the night shifts with no sleep would I have been able to carry on for longer. Listen to your body and take care.

It Is very interesting to here that mangers are making reasonable adjustments for people on here. I have been diagnosed for nearly 3 years now and only in the past 6 months has my shift work become an issue. I work in and NHS Biochemistry lab and love the job to bits but the shift patterns are unbelievably bad. Due to lack of staff i have had to battle with my managers go get my recommendations from Occupational Health in place. And even then they are not always being followed. I have even been told that in order for me to get the working pattern i desire, along with the rest and family time i need - redeployment might be better for me. Well, i have never been so upset in my life. I ask for a little bit of help and feel as if i have asked for the impossible. What frustrates me further is other colleagues (without major health issues) are given day shifts on set days on set sites, all because they are paying for a child at nursury. This cant be right , can it?

I’m a nurse who is currently on her break whilst on a night shift.


Shift work does effect MS. My entire body feels like it’s tingling. Bloody annoying.


You have replied to a post that is four years old. Nevertheless this an issue that appears on a regular basis.

You have taken the important step of being assessed by your OH department but have you contacted your union? Your union should be representing you in this matter and attending all your meetings with management. If you haven’t done so, get in touch with your union immediately and do not attend any more meetings with you managers or HR without representation.

Management should be there to support you; they are also obliged by employment law to do so. I have been through this process in the Police and I was treated very fairly and with compassion. The NHS should be doing the same. Your union is a vital cog in this process.

Best wishes


Good evening

I was a Prison Officer (with 18yrs service), who ended up retiring on medical grounds at the end of Oct 15. I was diagnosed 3 yrs ago with RRMS and spent most of them 3 yrs with either a constant headache, blurred vision & fatigue (or all at once) and being sick (+ other symptoms) from work. I also had 3 relapse in 3 yrs, I found that the shift pattern didnt let me get enough rest between shifts so I was constantly tired and over a prolonged period my symptoms got worse. I even wrote my own shift pattern that fitted with the prison regime (& was accepted by management) to try an alleviate the problems but I still couldnt cope. Now I have retired (as such) I can manage my fatigue a lot better which seems to helps with all other symptoms. I know that is not the case for everyone but it has worked for me. I now work part time through an agency and if Im not up to working I can just say no thanks, not today`.

I planned on doing that job until I retired but MS got in the way, (Im 47), I decided that my health was more important than work and if I could manage` MS instead of it managing me, that was the way to go.


Hi Alun

Thanks for the reply

My Union have been involved ever since i have had the 1st report from OH and they have been very supportive indeed. The problem is that because the department where i work is so stretched because of lack of staff, It is almost impossible to put into place the recommendations from OH interms of the amount of out of hours commitment i should be doing.

I am therefore doing more unsocial hours than have been recommended and i am getting increasingly worried of the impact that this is having on my MS. I have got a numbness sensation in my right hand in fingers 3, 4 and 5 and had this for nearly a year now and been told that this maybe a perminant thing. I have also recently had an "cold feeling that comes and goes throughout the day on the left side of my face near my eye.

The stress of trying to get a better working pattern has really taken its toll and i wonder if there is anything else that i can do to make sure that the recommendations are followed to the letter without question? I do actually beleive that the equality act is in breach off.