Why working night shifts is so dangerous for your health

Eliza Velk
Junior Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer

If your one to be rostered on for a late night shift you might want to think about changing up your schedule because, as it turns out working through the night is doing more damage to our health than simply making us overtired the next day.

Rather a study conducted by Washington State University and the University of Surrey has revealed that working during the hours we’re all meant to be sleeping can actually increase the risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease.

Essentially, your body’s internal clocks, which use light cues to determine whether it’s day or night, become disrupted and throw your whole body out of sync, particularly your metabolic functions which work in 24-hour rhythms.

Working late can throw off all of your internal clocks that make your body function properly. Source: Getty

Dr Debra Skene, a professor of neuroendocrinology labelled the clocks responsible for this disruption are the peripheral clocks that can be found in various body tissues including the liver, pancreas and digestive tract.

“These separate peripheral clocks are responding to the behaviour of your shift pattern and aligning with that behaviour,” she said to the Daily Mail.

The study went on to compare blood samples between participants who worked a three-hour day shift and participants that worked a three-hour night shift.

The study noticed a significant shift from those that worked during the day to those that worked at night. Source: NBC

It was found that those who worked the night shift had a 12-hour shift in the metabolic rhythm of their digestive system.

“Even just three days of night shift has the ability to shift peripheral clocks and give you the disruption, with some biological signs saying it’s day and others saying it’s night,” which causes a great deal of confusion for your body, Dr Skene says.

This disturbance can have detrimental effects on your health such as a higher risk for cancer or chronic kidney disease.  Source: Getty

The effects of these disruptions are great in that it, “In turn puts you at an increased risk of cancer, obesity, kidney disease and so on.”

The results particularly emphasised the risk of chronic kidney disease as this was the area associated with the greatest changes in rhythmic functions.

“We believe ours is the first study to suggest a mechanism for the connection between shift work and chronic kidney disease,” said co-author Dr Shobhan Gaddameedhi.

However, the exact reason for these changes still remains unclear with Debra saying it may be impacted by a combination of your sleep-wake cycle, your food intake, or the amount of time you perform the activity.

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