Damage caused by shift work

night-shift-nightmare-01-afA recent study has demonstrated the effects of shift work (shift lag) on the body. Many studies have shown an association between shift work and illnesses such as cardiovascular disorder, diabetes and generally poorer health. This latest study has actually been able to show that changes in the circadian rhythm switched off key genes linked to the immune system (as well as other biological functions).

Dr Simon Archer and his team studied 22 people (Archer et al. 2013). The participants lived in a controlled environment where the lights could be artificially controlled, gradually shifting their sleeping patterns to that of a night shift worker so they were sleeping when they would normally be awake. Using blood samples, the researchers were able to study the effects of shift lag on the participants’ genes. They found that the changes in body rhythms actually disrupted the activity of genes and this in turn affects biological processes such as immune system activity.

One Comment

  1. Keith E Rice January 22, 2014 at 3:10 pm #

    Thanks for drawing attention to this, Cara. It’s a key study that appears to be a clear demonstration of epigenetic modification – and epigenetic modification is something I dearly hope gets into the 2015 specifications. It’s THAT important!

    Back to the Archer study, there is, of course, a lot of AO3 for students to get their teeth into. Small sample size and potential cultural bias possibly limiting generalisation. Controlled environment limiting ecological validity. Hard biological measures being objective.

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