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Night shift workers at risk for diabetes: study

April 18, 2012

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Boston – Night shift workers may be at increased risk for diabetes and obesity due to uncommon sleep patterns, indicates research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Researchers examined 21 healthy people in a controlled sleeping environment for six weeks. Participants started out with 10 hours of sleep, followed by three weeks of 5.6 hours of sleep at all times of day and night, and then nine nights of recovery sleep at usual sleep times. The middle schedule mimicked the sleep pattern of shift workers, and had people trying to sleep at times that did not fit with their body’s internal clock, researchers stated.

The prolonged sleep restriction, combined with circadian disruption, lowered the resting metabolic rate and could lead to a yearly weight gain of 10 pounds if the person did not change diet and activity levels, according to a BWH press release. Participants also had increased glucose concentration and poor insulin secretion, which are linked to a higher risk for diabetes.

Researchers concluded that pre-diabetic shift workers who stay awake at night are more likely than day workers to develop full-on diabetes.

The study appeared online April 11 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

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