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Night shifts can put you at risk of heart diseases, cancer and more

According to a survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), USA, a regular night shift is connected to chronic sleep deprivation, as night shift workers, on an average, gets only 4 to 5 hours of sleep. © Shutterstock

Millions of people work in night shifts fighting against their natural circadian clocks. But few know that this can put them at risk of major health complications.

Written by Paras Hemrajani |Published : October 29, 2019 7:00 PM IST

Millions of people enjoy a 9 to 5 office job. But there is a significant section of our nation's workforce who goes to work at night. They drive cabs, clean offices, care for the sick and trade shares. They also provide help during emergencies and respond to calls at customer support. According to Loma Linda University, USA, by disrupting the circadian rhythm of the body, night shift is disturbing the natural functions of the body. While some people can deal with these changes, many cannot. The short-term effects of working on a night shift may include restlessness and sleepiness. Other symptoms are fatigue, decreased attention and changes in the body's metabolic process. With more and more researches coming up, these short-term effects are believed to be manageable. But what cannot be managed or prevented are the long-term effects of working on a night shift.


Yes, working on a night shift can impact your relationships, social life and sleep cycle. But these things are nothing compared to the effects it can have on your health.

Gene knockouts

According to a study at the Surrey Sleep Research Centre (SSRC) in the UK, working on night shifts can affect a person even on a molecular level. According to researchers of this study, a daytime worker can activate up to 6 per cent of certain genes, depending on the time. But a night shift worker can only activate 1 per cent. Because of changed sleep-wake pattern, there is confusion in bio-markers in genes. This confusion can cause mutation and several genetic associated illnesses.

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Chronic sleep deprivation

According to a survey by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), USA, a regular night shift has a link to chronic sleep deprivation. This is because night shift workers, on an average, gets only 4 to 5 hours of sleep. NSF recommends that a person should get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Lack of sleep can result in difficulty in concentrating and increase the risk of injuries. According to the NSF, night shift workers also have slow reaction times compared to others. They are more likely to perform errors in their work. According to a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, USA, in 2017, working at night increases the risk of depression.


According to a study published by the American Association for Cancer Research in 2019, people working at night, especially women, are at a greater risk of developing cancer. According to the study, 5 years of working in a night shift increases the risk of breast cancer by 3.3 per cent.

Heart disease

According to a study published in 2016 by the American Heart Association (AHA), USA, lack of sleep and disruption in sleep cycle affects a shift worker's natural rhythms and cardiovascular function. The risk of heart disease is higher in night shift employees as they drink a lot of coffee to remain active and functional. It is best to avoid caffeine, alcohol and heavy meals while at work.

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