LIFESTYLE

5 Ways Working Night Shifts May Affect Your Health

A new study has linked night shifts with heart disease.

27/04/2016 11:58 | Updated 27 April 2016

Working night shifts not only plays havoc with your social life, it can also have an impact on your health.

A new study has shown that people who work at least three nights per month are more likely to develop heart problems over the next 24 years than co-workers who stick to daytime shifts. 

The study, conducted by Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital, analysed data from 189,000 women working as nurses in the US.

It found that the risk of coronary heart disease was 12% higher in nurses who worked night shifts for less than five years, 19% higher in those who worked night shifts for five to nine years, and 27% higher in nurses who worked nights for at least 10 years.

Unfortunately, it isn't the first study to suggest working unsociable hours can have a detrimental impact on health.

Here are four other ways working night shifts may be affecting your body:

  • Tiredness
    Tara Moore via Getty Images
    Despite working the same amount of hours, working the night shift may leave you feeling extra tired.

    A study of police officers by the University of Iowa found that working the night or evening shift was strongly associated with getting fewer than six hours of sleep per day. 

    The research also identified that police officers who got fewer than six hours of sleep each day had more than a doubled risk of bad quality sleep, compared with those who got six or more hours of sleep per day.
  • Depression
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    Numerous studies have suggested working night shifts can have a negative impact on mental health.

    Research published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health explores the links between exposure to shift work during unsociable hours and experience of major depressive disorder (MDD) during and after work.

    The scientists found there was an "unexpectedly high" prevalence of MDD identified, occurring during or after night shift work, with a higher rate for women than for men.

    The study also provided suggestive evidence that increasing exposure to working at night (up to 20 years) was associated with an increased lifetime risk of MDD.
  • Breast Cancer
    Susan Chiang via Getty Images
    A 2013 study published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that working night shifts for more than 30 years could double women's risk of developing breast cancer.

    Commenting at the time, Dr Hannah Bridges, from the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: "We need to better understand why night work might increase breast cancer risk. Shift work may lead to unhealthy lifestyle habits that could independently increase the risk of breast cancer, so we'd encourage all women to take part in regular physical activity, maintain a healthy weight and reduce their alcohol intake."
  • Diabetes
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    Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that either sleeping too little or sleeping “against” the body’s biological clock increases a person’s risk for becoming obese or developing diabetes.

    "In people with a pre-diabetic condition, shift workers who stay awake at night are much more likely to progress to full-on diabetes than day workers,” study researcher Orfeu M. Buxton said at the time.

    “Since night workers often have a hard time sleeping during the day, they can face both circadian disruption working at night and insufficient sleep during the day.

    "The evidence is clear that getting enough sleep is important for health, and that sleep should be at night for best effect.”
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