Research/studies Shift work

Shift work may pose greater risk to women: study

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Photo: Alexey Stiop/iStockphoto

Guildford, England – Women are more likely than men to be affected by the adverse ramifications of shift work, a new study out of England suggests.

Researchers from the University of Surrey’s sleep center placed 16 men and 18 women on 28-hour days to desynchronize them from the brain’s typical 24-hour circadian clock. Participants then performed several tasks every three hours when they were awake.

The sleep cycle simulated the effect that shift work or jetlag may have on workers. Researchers found that the desynchronized circadian clock affected sleepiness, mood and effort, as well as working memory and temporal processing to a smaller degree.

In 11 of the 39 performance measures, women were more impaired in the early morning hours. This finding correlates with real-world data that shows women are at increased risk of occupational injuries during extended work shifts, non-standard shifts and changing shifts, according to the study.

“We show for the first time that challenging the circadian clock affects the performance of men and women differently,” study co-author Nayantara Santhi said in a university press release. “Our research findings are significant in view of shift work-related cognitive deficits and changes in mood. Extrapolation of these results would suggest that women may be more affected by nightshift work than men.”

The study was published April 19 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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