Why Working the Night Shift Can Harm Your Health
How many times have you thought “my work is killing me”? Well if you are a night shift worker that statement might be truer than you realize. A recent study shows that when normal sleep patterns are disrupted it has very real and potentially life-threatening effects on the body, depending on the amount of time that passes between natural sleep cycles and unnatural sleep cycles. Keep reading for more information on this recent discovery.
Night shift workers have a higher chance of developing some very serious diseases due to their “unnatural” sleep habits. Some of these health problems include diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. This study found that when individuals had their sleep cycle shifted twelve hours that there were noticeable changes in their blood pressure, sleep quality, and key hormones.
What are the Negative Health Effects?
The hormone changes that occurred included declining levels of leptin, which is a natural appetite suppressant. At the same time blood sugar levels and insulin levels had a tendency to rise, and the normal pattern of the hormone cortisol was completely reversed. Cortisol is the natural “stress” hormone and disrupting it or any other balance in your body can lead to serious health issues.
The decline in the appetite suppression hormone leptin can increase weight gain and the possibility of obesity if not controlled. While weight gain is thought to be one of the contributing factors to diabetes, elevated blood sugars and insulin are also proven contributors to type-2 diabetes. Additionally, fluctuations in blood pressure and cortisol can lead to heart disease.
This study was preformed using only volunteers that were deemed healthy by a physician and the results prove that even in otherwise healthy individuals, when sleep is disrupted the risk increases for developing diabetes.
Who Else Might Be Affected?
While the study was focused on night shift workers, experts agree the phenomenon may also affect other segments of the population, such as individuals with sleep disorders and individuals suffering from jet lag. While night shift workers tend to have more dramatic health risks because their sleep patterns are disrupted for much longer periods of time, everyone who has disrupted sleep is doing harm to their bodies.
What Can Be Done?
Even though this study shows a connection between serious health risks and the night shift, it is not practical to ask companies to disband their night shift activities. This would cause a tremendous rise in the unemployment rate and add more health risks due to stress from lack of financial stability.
While it is important for every person to get a quality night’s rest, there needs to be more research done on how individuals who do work the night shift can keep their jobs and maintain a healthy lifestyle.