Night work and other forms of shift work have long been associated with poor health and illness as workers fight against the natural circadian rhythms of the body (in relation to the human body clock). Following on from earlier research, the BBC
notes that a new study has linked night work to the increased chance of developing diabetes.
The new study has been published in the journal Science Translation Medicine
(April 2012). The study followed twenty-one people over a three week period. For three weeks, the participants were allowed 6.5 hours of sleep during a 28-hour period, but the sleep occurred at different times of day and night, to simulate the pattern that people working rotating shifts might follow. The results indicated that not only was the internal body clock disrupted, in addition the amount of insulin secreted by the pancreas was considerably reduced.
According to Time
, the authors of the study have connected the insulin results to the body of epidemiological research which indicates that night workers are at an increased risk of weight gain, metabolic abnormalities, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. There was also a connection drawn with a major 2010 study published in the journal Diabetes
which linked sleep restriction to diabetes risk.
quotes Joseph Bass, of Northwestern University, as commenting on the research:
"There is always a question as to whether or not the effects of shift work are due to sleep effects or whether they’re due to changes in the way clocks in the body maintain their synchrony to changes in the environment. What this study is trying to do in a novel way is to get at that separation".
The reference for the paper
OM Buxton, et. al., “Adverse Metabolic Consequences in Humans of Prolonged Sleep Restriction Combined with Circadian Disruption,” Science Translational Medicine, 4:1-11, 2012.