Night Shifts Can Damage Your Health

Working night shifts throws the body into chaos, scientists have warned. They showed that a top...

Night Shifts Can DamageYour Health

Working night shifts throws the body into chaos, scientists have warned.

They showed that a topsy-turvy sleep cycle causes havoc deep inside DNA.

This could help explain everything from why jet lag makes us feel so lousy to why shift work is linked to a host of health problems from obesity to diabetes.

The Surrey University researchers delayed the bedtime of 22 healthy men and women by four hours a day for three days, until they were going sleep when they would normally wake up and vice versa.

Blood tests showed that when sleeping normally, 6 per cent of their genes were timed to be more or less active at certain times of the day.

For instance, some genes involved in defending the body against disease worked harder during the day than at night.

But when following a night shift-like pattern of sleeping during the day and being awake at night, this rhythm was ‘profoundly disrupted’.

Researcher Dr Simon Archer told the BBC: ‘Over 97 per cent of rhythmic genes become out of sync with mistimed sleep and this really explains why we feel so bad during jet lag or if we have to work irregular shifts.’

Fellow researcher Professor Derk-Jan Dijk described the effect as ‘chaos’.

Night Shifts Can DamageYour Health

He added: ‘This research may help us understand the negative effects associated with shift work, jet lag and other conditions in which the rhythms of our genes are disrupted.’

Other experts said it was surprising that such a big effect had occurred after just a few weeks of disrupted sleep. They said that long-term, the genetic chaos could lead to a lot of health problems.

Night Shifts Can DamageYour Health

The findings, detailed in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could shed light on jet lag, ageing and other processes in which the body clock is altered.

By Fiona Macrae, DailyMail


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