What are the effects of shift work on health?
Shift work is often associated with a different sleep-wake cycle. This increases the risk of various health problems. According to a recent study, this also applies to severe strokes. And some negative effects of shift work on sleep-wake cycles never seem to return to normal.
The study, involving experts from Texas A&M University, examined the effects of a shifted sleep-wake cycle in early adulthood on circadian rhythms, inflammatory signals and ischemic stroke pathology. middle age. The results can be found in the journal Neurobiology of Sleep and Circadian Rhythms.
Shift work affects the internal clock
"Shift work, particularly rotating shift work, disrupts our internal clocks and this has important implications for our health and well-being and its association with human disease," said study author Dr. Professor David Earnest, in a press release.
Why biological processes must take place at the right time
When the body's internal clocks are properly synchronized, they coordinate all biological processes at the right time of day or night. If, on the other hand, they are poorly adjusted, for example due to shift work or other disorders, this leads to changes in physiology, biochemical processes and various behaviors, the doctor further explains.
In a previous study, the team found that animal models (rats) with rotating shift work schedules had an increased incidence of more severe strokes compared to animals working a regular 24-hour day/night cycle. .
Male animals have also been shown to perform worse and have a significantly higher mortality rate, experts say.
Differences with previous surveys
In ongoing research, a new approach has now been chosen. Instead of examining the immediate effects of shift work on stroke, the effects were not analyzed until the animals returned to a regular 24-hour cycle and were already middle-aged.
The analysis looked in particular at the occurrence and severity of strokes and their consequences.
Consequences of years of shift work
"What has already been found in epidemiological studies is that most people only work shifts for five to eight years and then return to normal working hours," says Professor Earnest.
“We wanted to know if this was enough to erase the problems that these circadian rhythm disturbances cause, or if these effects persist after returning to normal working hours”, adds the expert.
Sleep-wake cycles will never return to normal
The team found that the health effects of shift work persist over time. Experts point out that the animals' sleep-wake cycle never really returned to normal.
They exhibited persistent changes in their sleep-wake cycles, with periods of abnormal activity when they would normally have been asleep, the researchers report.
Enhanced Stroke Effects
When rats with an altered sleep-wake cycle suffered a stroke, the results were significantly worse than those in the control group, the research team said.
In the study, experts also identified increased levels of inflammatory mediators from the intestines in animals in the shift work group.
Is an altered interaction between the brain and the gut the cause?
"We believe that part of the underlying mechanism of circadian rhythm disruption that leads to more severe strokes may be related to altered brain-gut interactions," says Professor Earnest.
The study is not only relevant for people who work shifts, but also for people whose daily routine or schedule is subject to a lot of changes, the researchers report.
“Even those of us who work a regular schedule tend to stay up late on the weekends, leading to what is known as social jet lag, which also disrupts our body clocks, causing them to lose track time with precision. All of this can have the same effects on human health as shift work," warns Professor Earnest.
Therefore, stick to a regular schedule with waking, sleeping and eating times that is not subject to drastic changes from day to day, advises the expert.
In addition, common cardiovascular risks should be avoided, such as a high-fat diet, lack of exercise, excessive alcohol consumption and smoking, adds the doctor. (as)
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This text corresponds to the specifications of the specialized medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.
Sources:David J Earnest, Shaina Burns, Sivani Pandey, Kathiresh KumarMani, Farida Sohrabji: Gender differences in the diathetic effects of shift work on circulating cytokine levels and pathologic outcomes of ischemic stroke in middle age; in: Neurobiology of Sleep and Circadian Rhythms (published, Neurobiology of Sleep and Circadian RhythmsTexas A&M University: Shift Work Augmentation The Severity Of Strokes Later In Life (published 07/05/2022), Texas A&M University
This article contains general advice only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. It cannot substitute a visit to the doctor.