Scientists at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston have revealed that women with irregular work patterns and sleep cycles have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The research, which was published in the journal PLoS Medicine, also claimed that the longer this irregular schedule continues, the higher the risk of diabetes.
The study, which examined data on the risk of type 2 diabetes for 177,184 female nurses between the ages of 42 and 67 who have been on years of shift work, found that those who did rotating night shifts involving at least three nights per month were 20 per cent more likely to develop the metabolic condition as compared to nurses who only worked days. This was for as little as three years, but those nurses who put in at least 20 years of shift work faced nearly a 60 per cent higher risk of develop diabetes.
Irregular shifts are known to cause problems for our natural rhythms, important for maintaining healthy blood sugar and energy levels, while lack of sleep and changing cycles can result in insulin resistance and higher blood sugar levels, both risk factors for diabetes. However, a lot of the increase in risk of diabetes can be due to weight gain from lifestyle problems and disruptions to eating and sleeping patterns.
Frank Hu, who led the study, commented “The increased risk is not huge, but it’s substantial and can have important public health implications given that almost one-fifth of the workforce is on some kind of rotating night shift.”

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