Shift work and brain damage

What do we know about the inner workings of the human brain? Everything that humans do is based on the unit structures of the human brain-the Neurons. 

Neurons are the building blocks of the human brain. Just as an ant cannot build an ant hill, a single Neuron cannot create an idea to remedy a situation or condition. 

Neurons must be networked to each other and by so doing create a unique platform for ideas to be formed to solve issues, develop ideas, invent and innovate, etc. There is absolutely nothing that you can do without the help of these neurons.

When the brain is affected by disease or injury, a lot is affected. Getting the children off to school in the morning and cooking dinner in the afternoon goes from normal to an oddity. Keeping up with to-do lists with important meetings and your little one’s training time table becomes impossible. 

It might be difficult to do your job. It might be difficult to keep track of your body. It might affect the loved ones and what you love the most. It can change your life and your lifestyle. It can shorten your life. Therefore, we need a brain health strategy on how to best prevent disease and injury, and how to best investigate and treat them. 

How we can best help patients and their families to cope with disease and injuries that affect the brain. Society benefits hugely from preventing brain diseases on improving the health services for those affected. Active and equal participation from users is vital to create better brain health within the population. 

Prevention of brain diseases, good and equal treatment, follow up and rehabilitation, as well as increased research and expertise, is a good social investment and an investment in the individual.

SHIFT WORK AND SLEEP

In today’s competitive economy, an increasing number of U.S. businesses operate to meet customer demand for 24/7 services. These around-the-clock operations are required in order to maintain a place in the global market where transactions with clients, suppliers, and colleagues can span multiple time zones. 

Consequently, for many men and women, the workday no longer fits the traditional 9-to-5 model. They may clock in at midnight and out at 8:00 in the morning, or they may follow a rotating shift work schedule consisting periodic day shifts, evening shifts, and night shifts.

Since our body clocks typically are set for a routine of daytime activity and night time sleep, working irregular shifts or night hours can be associated with disrupted or insufficient sleep. 

In turn, drowsiness, fatigue, and circadian rhythm disruption from too little sleep or interrupted sleep are associated with risks for dysfunction of the immune system, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic health problems. 

As non-traditional schedules become more common, it becomes increasingly important to understand who may be at risk of unintended job-related outcomes, and why. From that knowledge, employers, workers, and practitioners can better craft practical, effective interventions.

Scientists are extremely slow in their endeavours and know little about the prevalence of sleep disorders broadly in the U.S. workforce because, to date, most studies have been limited to selected occupational groups, geographic areas, and types of sleep disorders. 

In a study published on-line earlier this month in the peer reviewed journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine, we designed a larger investigation that would not be subject to those limitations. 

We used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), conducted by the National Centre for Health Statistics, one of our partner centres in the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ours was the first-ever study using a nationally representative sample of the U.S. working population to examine the role of shift work in sleep quality, sleep-related activities of daily living, and insomnia.

Our nationally representative sample included 6,338 adults, 18 years of age and older. They were asked to complete a survey questionnaire covering sleep duration, sleep disorders, sleep quality, impairment of sleep-related activities of daily living (ADL), and insomnia. 

To determine the shift schedule worked by each individual, they were asked which choice best described the hours they usually worked: regular daytime (any hours between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.), regular evening shift (any hours between 4 p.m. and midnight), regular night shift (any hours between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m.), rotating shift, or another schedule. 

Based on a recommendation by the National Sleep Foundation that adults should sleep seven to nine hours per night, we created two categories of sleep duration for the study: either less than seven hours referred to as short sleep duration, or seven or more hours.

From our study of this large, nationally representative sample, we concluded that sleep-related problems were common among workers, especially among night-shift workers who had the highest risks for sleep problems. 

Moreover, these risks among night-shift workers persisted even after we adjusted for potentially confounding factors, such as long working hours, socio-demographic characteristics, and health/lifestyle/work factors. 

to be continued

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