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Working Night Shifts May Increase Risk of Heart Disease, Stroke and Cancer

By Bindu Vinodh

Do you work from dusk to dawn? Then, you should be aware of certain health issues that are likely to crop up if you continue working in night shifts for prolonged periods.

This is not just being said to scare you, as a first-of-its kind study has revealed the direct link between working night shifts and an increased risk for stroke, cancer and heart diseases.

Effects of working night shift

For the study, blood samples of employees who worked day shifts and night shifts were analysed for metabolites (an intermediate end product of metabolism). Metabolic disruption was noticed in night shift workers, which puts them at an increased risk for diseases such as diabetes, obesity and cancer.

The study conducted by Washington State University together with University of Surrey is also the first study that links night shift work to the risk of chronic kidney disease. The study showed that various clocks in the body are thrown out of sync that leads to this disruption.

In majority of industries, working night shift is a necessary part of their regular workday. Businesses generally operate through the night to produce the quantity of work so as to meet the market demands. However, employees who take up these night shifts and continue working in these shifts for prolonged periods of time can suffer a variety of health issues.
This is because working in the night shift compels your body to work against the body's natural circadian rhythm, and often, it does not hold good to move against what mother nature has put in place for us.

Having said that, here's how working night shifts for a prolonged period of time can impact your health:

Disrupts Normal Sleep Pattern

We all know that sleep is crucial for our overall health. Sleep helps the body in getting rid of toxins, reduces stress, repairs injury and builds immunity. However, working in the night shift can come in the way of these essential processes, and this can trigger a host of health issues.

Poses Risk Of Cancer

Several studies in the past had revealed that night shift workers have an increased risk for type2 diabetes and skin cancer. Meanwhile, it is said that women working in night shifts are at a greater risk of contracting breast cancer than the day shift workers, and this disruption is inevitable, irrespective of whether you work one night a week, or on a regular night shift.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of WHO, has revealed that working in night shifts may lead to cancer. Night shift jobs have been linked with breast cancer and other types of cancers, apart from diabetes and sleep disruption.

Furthermore, working in night shifts leaves you devoid of vitamin D that helps in calcium absorption and bone growth. Apart from causing osteomalacia, a deficiency of the D vitamin, it can also cause colon cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Risk Of Heart Diseases And Stroke

A 2012 study in the British Medical Journal revealed that working in night shift can increase the risk of heart attacks by seven per cent. The change in sleep habits was thought to be the primary reason for this, as irregular sleep pattern can affect blood pressure and circulation.

Another study, published in the Journal of American Medical Association, revealed that nurses who worked rotating night shifts for 10 years or longer, showed an increased risk by 15 per cent or more, for coronary heart diseases, in comparison to nurses who escaped night shift duty.
The increased risk appeared to be independent of other obvious causes such as bad diet or lack of exercise, the researchers revealed.

Furthermore, working overnight can shoot up blood pressure, posing you to the risk of stroke.

Risk Of Obesity And Diabetes

Night shifts compel you to sleep during the day, which can increase your risk of obesity and diabetes. These disorders, in the case of night shift workers are due to imbalance in hormones, wherein, the normal hormonal cycle is disrupted due to shift in sleep patterns.
For example, the hormone 'leptin', plays a vital role in regulating your weight, insulin levels and sugar levels. Night shift work can disrupt the production of this vital hormone. This goes to say that, even if you have a healthy diet, the hormonal imbalance may still cause obesity and diabetes.

Gastrointestinal Disorders

Working in night shifts for prolonged periods can disrupt the body metabolism, and lead to gastrointestinal issues such as ulcers and diarrhea, and this in-turn, can cause more serious medical issues.

Risk Of Depression

Night shift jobs can also have a negative impact on your mental health. Numerous studies have shown there is an increased risk of mood disorders and depression when working on night shift jobs.

These are just a few of the negatives associated with night shift jobs, however, despite the negatives, if you are temporarily stuck in a nightshift job, discuss with your doctor about the best practices you can follow to keep away the harm of working in night shift as far as possible.

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    Story first published: Thursday, July 12, 2018, 17:30 [IST]
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