What you need to know:
- Shift work unwinds body clocks, leading to more severe strokes: Research finds living against our body clocks is detrimental to our health.
- When body clocks are disrupted, as they are when people go to bed and get up at radically different times every few days, there can be a major impact on health.
Employees, especially shift workers who punch in for graveyard or rotating shifts are more prone to numerous health hazards, from heart attacks to obesity, and now, new research shows shift work may also have serious implications for the brain, Texas A&M University in the US wrote on its website on Wednesday.
Using an animal model, David Earnest, a professor at the university, and his team found that subjects on shift work schedules had more severe stroke outcomes, in terms of both brain damage and loss of sensation and limb movement than controls on regular 24-hour cycles of day and night.
“The body is synchronised to night and day by circadian rhythms—24-hour cycles controlled by internal biological clocks that tell our bodies when to sleep, when to eat and when to perform numerous physiological processes,” Earnest said. “A person on a shift work schedule, especially on rotating shifts, challenges, or confuses, their internal body clocks by having irregular sleep-wake patterns or meal times.”
According to the professor, it is not the longer hours—or the weird hours—necessarily that are the problem. Instead, it is the change in the timing of waking, sleeping and eating every few days that “unwinds” our body clocks and makes it difficult for them to maintain their natural, 24-hour cycle.
When body clocks are disrupted, as they are when people go to bed and get up at radically different times every few days, there can be a major impact on health.
Earnest and his colleagues found that shift work can lead to more severe ischemic strokes, which occur when blood flow is cut off to part of the brain.
The study, “Shift work unwinds body clocks, leading to more severe strokes: Research finds living against our body clocks is detrimental to our health”, is in the journal