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  • Zuzia Boguslawska

Why working night shifts is so bad for your health?

With many businesses opening up again, it’s no surprise that many people are going back to their workplaces, and some are starting to be doing the night shifts again. Roughly 16% of U.S. employees work a non-traditional shift, which may include evenings and nights, early mornings, and/or rotating and split shifts. Sadly, the employees tasked with working these irregular shifts for prolonged periods of time can suffer from a variety of health issues.

This is because our body functions in 24-hour “circadian” cycles controlled by internal clocks, which are synchronized by our brain. Both light and dark play crucial roles in guiding the body’s circadian clock. For example, at night, when the sun goes down we tend to feel sleepy. The darkness signals the brain to release chemical melatonin. Its levels fall during the day. Other functions like digestion, heart rate, and body temperature fluctuate through the day-night cycle too. The production of circadian rhythm is encoded in our genes, but factors such as jet lag or shift work cause changes in the light-dark cycle.

“Shift work, particularly night shifts, disrupts social and biological rhythms, as well as sleep, and has been suggested to increase the risk of metabolic disorders, including Type 2 diabetes,” says Director of the Circadian and Sleep Epidemiology at Colorado University.

Long-term disruption overrides the biological clock causing activation of the fight-or-flight response. This, in turn, results in increased blood glucose and blood pressure as well as higher alertness. Your body is prepared for dealing with a potential threat, but you are just working a night shift.

Studies show that sleep deprivation and disturbed sleep, which are often associated with working night shifts are correlated with Alzheimer’s disease features such as increased levels of amyloid beta protein.

When you’re stuck doing an overnight, shift don't worry! Just get some sunlight whenever you have days off.

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