Shift workers at higher risk of diabetes, heart disease

If you work in shifts, you are more prone to heart ailments and diabetes as compared to people who work in regular daytime shifts, says a new study.

Researchers have long recognised that shift work can contribute to metabolic risk because of the continual disruption to the circadian system.

Shift workers are more likely to develop metabolic syndrome, coronary heart disease and Type 2 diabetes than employees with regular daytime shifts, researchers said.

Sleep disruption is among the factors that have contributed to rising rates of diabetes and obesity.

“Social jetlag refers to the mismatch between an individual’s biological circadian rhythm and their socially imposed sleep schedules. Other researchers have found that social jetlag relates to obesity and some indicators of cardiovascular function,” said Patricia M. Wong from the University of Pittsburgh.

“However, we found that even among healthy adults who experience a less extreme range of mismatches in their sleep schedule, social jetlag can contribute to metabolic problems.

“These metabolic changes can contribute to the development of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” Wong added.

Researchers examined sleep patterns and cardio metabolic risk in a group of 447 men and women who were between the ages of 30 and 54.

Among the participants, nearly 85 percent had a later halfway point in their sleep cycle – a measurement known as midsleep – on free days compared to work days.

The other 15 percent had an earlier midsleep on free days than on work days.

Participants who had a greater misalignment between their sleep schedules on free and work days tended to have poorer cholesterol profiles, higher fasting insulin levels, larger waist circumference, higher body-mass index and were more resistant to insulin than those who had less social jetlag.