A 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.