Irregular Sleeping

Article from the  LA TIMES

Working an irregular schedule that includes afternoon and night shifts can seriously sap your brain power, new research shows.

For people who spent more than a decade on this type of rotating shift schedule, the effects were equivalent to 6.5 years of normal age-related cognitive decline, according to a study in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

But people who were currently working a rotating schedule had worse scores – the equivalent of 5.8 years of age-related decline. Even worse were people who had stopped working a rotating schedule within the last five years; their scores indicated the equivalent of 6.9 years of age-related cognitive decline.

When the researchers expanded the analysis to include people who experienced any kind of irregular work schedule, the results were similar.

All of the data came from VISAT, a long-term study of salaried workers from southern France.  The workers, who held a wide range of jobs, were given questionnaires and clinical exams up to three times over a 10-year period. A total of 3,232 workers were included in the study; of them, 1,484 (46%) said they had worked irregular shifts at some point in their careers.

Previous studies have found that work schedules that are out of sync with the body’s natural circadian rhythm can harm mental function. For instance, airline crews that experienced frequent jet lag and didn’t get enough time to recover got poor results on tests of their cognitive abilities. Industrial workers assigned to odd shifts did worse on memory tests compared with their counterparts who only worked days. And nurses who sometimes worked nights got lower marks on tests of general cognition.

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