Health

Night shift workers have poorer memory and less alertness


Shift workers have worse memory and slower mental speed because their body clocks don’t work, a study found.

Switching from night to day shifts has long been linked to serious health problems such as sleep disturbances, heart disease, obesity and mood problems.

It is thought to be caused by a disturbance of the body’s circadian rhythms, our internal clocks that secrete hormones that encourage us to fall asleep when it’s dark.

Now, a new analysis by Austrian experts has found that shift work can also affect brain function.

Putting the many studies on the subject together, they found that in 5 out of 6 types of shift workers there was ‘significantly worse’ performance than their non-shift workers. This includes being less alert and less able to control impulses, which can increase the risk of accidents and mistakes in the workplace.

Experts have suggested that employers encourage workers to take lunch breaks to ensure their neurological functions are protected.

Shift work, where people work beyond the traditional 9 to 5 hours, often late into the night and early in the morning, is a quintessential part of modern society. These include shift workers, NHS staff 24 hours a day, as well as call center staff, such as employees of banks and or IT companies.

Around one in eight Britons are estimated to work night shifts and fatigue is estimated to be the cause of £240m worth of workplace accidents a year.

Austrian experts analyzed mental performance results from 18 studies that looked at nearly 19,000 people comparing shift workers with their normal office hours colleagues.

Austrian experts analyzed mental performance results from 18 studies that looked at nearly 19,000 people comparing shift workers with their normal office hours colleagues.

Austrian experts analyzed mental performance results from 18 studies that looked at nearly 19,000 people comparing shift workers with their normal office hours colleagues.

EXPLAINED: HOW RHYTHM CIRCADIAN WORKS

In a healthy person, cortisol levels peak around 8 a.m., causing us to wake up (theoretically) and drop to a low at 3 a.m. the next day, before rising back to their highest level by 3 a.m. five hours later.

Ideally, this 8am peak would be triggered by exposure to sunlight, if not alarm. When this happens, the adrenal glands and brain will start pumping adrenaline.

By mid-morning, cortisol levels begin to drop, while adrenaline (which provides energy) and serotonin (a mood stabilizer) keep pumping.

At midday, metabolism and core body temperature increase, leaving us hungry and ready to eat.

After noon, cortisol levels begin to drop steadily. Metabolism slows down and fatigue appears. Gradually serotonin converts to melatonin, causing drowsiness. Our blood sugar drops, and at 3 a.m., while we’re sleeping, cortisol levels reach their lowest level in 24 hours.

Experts from Sigmund Freud Private University analyzed results from 18 different studies on shift work and brain function published between 2005 and 2020, looking at a total of nearly 19,000 people.

They compared the results based on the participants’ processing speed, working memory, alertness, impulse control and situational response, and their ability to filter out unimportant visual cues. importance and the ability to unconsciously switch between tasks.

Five of the studies compared those who worked fixed shifts with those who worked the usual 9 a.m. hours.

Eleven studies compared rotating shift workers with regular workers. The other two studies did not identify the type of change they compared.

Half of the studies addressed healthcare workers, while the rest addressed a range of different professions, the authors note.

The results of the studies were then aggregated and showed that shift workers performed worse in 5 of the 6 categories assessed.

They found a significantly large impact on shift workers’ impulse control and situational response, which is the mind’s ability to process information for behavioral planning.

A smaller but still significant effect was observed on workers’ mental processing speed, memory skills, alertness and ability to filter out unimportant information during the shift. .

However, shift workers were found to be as likely to switch between different work duties as 9 to 5 of their colleagues.

Professor Alfred Barth, an expert in psychology and lead author of the study, said: ‘The reduced neurobacterial performance in shift workers may play an important role in relation to work-related injuries and errors.’

He added that workplaces can take protective steps such as having space for naps, employee wellness plans and regular employee monitoring, to reduce the potential impact of employment. mental inefficiency.

Professor Barth acknowledged that their analysis had some limitations due to the large number of tests that the individual studies they examined were used to measure cognitive performance.

The studies also include different occupations with different needs and workloads, he adds, meaning the results may overestimate or underestimate the impact of shift work on with staff.

Prof Barth also said that because the studies only looked at participants at a time rather than over a long period of time, it could not be conclusively concluded that shift work was the cause of low mental performance. than.

He said that further studies in this area should be done to increase the quality of knowledge.

Shift work has long been associated with an increased risk of long-term illness compared with regular hourly workers.

Previous research found that 45% of women and 40% of men who work shifts in the NHS suffer from long-term illness compared with 39% and 36% respectively in non-shift workers.

Source: | This article originally belonged to Dailymail.co.uk



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