Being stressed out from work is an experience known to pretty much every adult who has ever worked, and while any strenuous working hours could be tough on a person, it seems apparent that taking night shifts puts an increased strain on people's health. A recent study on the subject shows that night shifts could be a reason for higher risks of cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Part of the study included analyzing workers' blood samples for metabolites.
After analyzing the metabolites in the blood samples of workers who take different shifts, i.e. day or night ones, a recent study has shown that working late at night increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and obesity. This seems to be because of a disruption in the chemical processes in the body's metabolism, accompanied by a change in the internal clock in the brain which is tipped off by different light cues.
When a person is taking a night shift, what ends up happening is that the internal clock in the brain gets altered. Moreover, the study suggests that not just one clock gets disrupted, but in fact, a few others as well. Dr. Debra Skene is a professor of neuroendocrinology and she elaborated that: "These separate peripheral clocks are responding to the behavior of your shift pattern and aligning with that behavior."
The peripheral clocks that Dr. Debra Skene mentions refer to the ones found in different body tissues, such as the liver, digestive tract, and pancreas. She also adds: "The clocks are being driven by changes in your eating and sleeping patterns and causing a mismatch between the clocks in your body and the master clock." The study in question included 14 participants who were divided into two groups. One half 'worked' day shifts. The the other worked night shifts.
Each half of the participants 'worked' for 3 days, and when they were all set and done, the researchers acquired blood samples from everyone to check them for metabolites. These metabolites show the metabolic consequences regarding the breaking down and digesting of food, and they happen to be under the influence of people's daily circadian rhythm, which operates by cycles that last for 24 hours. The research showed a 12 hours shift in the digestive system metabolites.
While the digestive system metabolites in the people who 'worked' the night shifts changed by 12 hours, the master clocks in their brains had only shifted by about two hours: "Even just three days of night shift has the ability to shift peripheral clocks and give you the disruption, with some biological signs saying it's day and others saying it's night, this puts you at an increased risk of cancer, an obesity, kidney disease and so on."
The statement above was courtesy of Dr. Debra Skene, and this is what Dr. Shobhan Gaddameedhi had to add: "We believe ours is the first study to suggest a mechanism for the connection between shift work and chronic kidney disease." In relation, Dr. Skene isn't sure which factor is exactly responsible for the change of metabolites rhythms, or whether it's a mix of all three - sleep-wake cycle, food intake or the amount of time a person performs the activity.