A study at the University of Swansea and Toulouse has found that working a decade on varying shifts can age the brain by more than six years. Because many of us work irregular hours it could be doing serious harm. A new study has suggested that working odd hours can have a seriously damaging effect on the human brain.
In a French study, researchers assessed 3,232 adults using a variety of cognitive tests and tests and compared the results between people who reported they had never performed shift work for more than 50 days per year with those that had. They analyzed the results, comparing the number of years of rotating shift work performed and how long ago the shift work had stopped.
According to the study, those who do shift work for more than 10 years seem to have the equivalent of an extra 6.5 years of age related decline in memory and thinking skills. The good news is that when people in the study quit shift work, their brains did recover, even if it took five years.
There are more chances of developing breast cancer for long term shift workers. According to research, shifts are linked to increased risk of heart attacks, obesity, strokes. There may be a possibility of major accidents during night shifts.
“It was quite a substantial decline in brain function, it is likely that when people trying to undertake complex cognitive tasks, then they might make more mistakes and slip-ups, maybe one in 100 makes a mistake with a very large consequence, but it’s hard to say how big a difference it would make in day-to-day life” said by Dr Philip Tucker, who is part of the research team in Swansea.
There was some good news because shift workers were able to reverse the damage by changing their working hours, although it could take as long as five years.
He also said “There are ways to mitigate the effects in the way you design work schedules and regular medical checkups … should include cognitive performance tests to look for danger signs”.
“The reversibility is a really exciting finding because no-one else has shown it and no matter how compromised a person may be, there’s always hope of recovery,” said by Dr Michael Hastings, from the UK Medical Research Council’s laboratory of molecular biology.
You can ameliorate one of the consequences that if you can keep the sleep-wake cycle as solid as possible you are unlikely to reverse the neuro-degeneration.
Prof Derk-Jan, from the Surrey Sleep Centre, cautioned that retired shift worker still had lower sleep quality than people who had never done night shift.
He said “So some of these effects may not be so readily or rapidly reversed”
And also he added a few words for this as “we now accept that shift work may not be good for your physical health, but this shows your brain function is affected, and I think that finding will surprise many people.”