Your Brain Needs Sleep – How to Counteract the Ill Effects of Working the Night Shift

From Dr. Mercola:

On my previous articles that discussed night shift workers many asked in the comment section below what they should do if they have to work night shift. Well this article addresses those concerns and should be helpful for you even if you don’t work night shifts.

First, let’s review how working night shifts damages your biology; then we will explore the ways to minimize that impact.

Science has clearly established the importance of keeping your internal body clock in sync with the rising and setting sun. Unfortunately, about one-fifth of the American workforce work nights, at least on occasion, and working the night shift is one of the fastest ways to disrupt your body clock.

The ramifications of such disruption can be significant, with research showing disrupted sleep cycles contributing to:1

Obesity2 and type 2 diabetes

Decreased immune function3

Cardiovascular and heart disease4,5

Impaired brain function and emotional control,6,7 early cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s 8

Cancer. A primary mechanism responsible for this effect is disrupted melatonin production, a hormone with both antioxidant and anti-cancer activity. Melatonin both inhibits the proliferation of cancer cells and triggers cancer cell apoptosis (self-destruction).

It also interferes with the new blood supply tumors require for their rapid growth (angiogenesis). A number of studies have shown that night shift workers are at heightened risk of cancer for this reason.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) even lists night shifts as “probably carcinogenic.”

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