From Science Daily:
Statistics show that some 15 million Americans don’t work the typical nine-to-five. These employees (or shift workers), who punch in for graveyard or rotating shifts, are more prone to numerous health hazards, from heart attacks to obesity, and now, new research, published in Endocrinology, shows shift work may also have serious implications for the brain.
“The body is synchronized to night and day by circadian rhythms–24-hour cycles controlled by internal biological clocks that tell our bodies when to sleep, when to eat and when to perform numerous physiological processes,” said David Earnest, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine. “A person on a shift work schedule, especially on rotating shifts, challenges, or confuses, their internal body clocks by having irregular sleep-wake patterns or meal times.”
According to Earnest, it’s not the longer hours–or the weird hours–necessarily that is the problem. Instead, it is the change in the timing of waking, sleeping and eating every few days that “unwinds” our body clocks and makes it difficult for them to maintain their natural, 24-hour cycle. When body clocks are disrupted, as they are when people go to bed and get up at radically different times every few days, there can be a major impact on health. Earnest and his colleagues have found that shift work can lead to more severe ischemic strokes, the leading cause of disability in the United States, which occur when blood flow is cut off…