[Paleopsych] NS: Mess with the body clock at your peril

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Sat Apr 23 23:41:18 UTC 2005

Here are some articles for today.

Mess with the body clock at your peril
      * 23 April 2005
      * Helen Phillips

    THE way patterns of shift work are organised could be causing major
    health problems, according to a pair of reports commissioned by the UK
    government body that regulates workplace safety.

    The reports, prepared for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), show
    that offshore oil workers adopting the most popular shift pattern have
    a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes. This pattern also makes
    workers more tired and inattentive, increasing the chance of accidents
    and mistakes.

    Chronobiologist Josephine Arendt and her team at the University of
    Surrey in Guildford and psychologist Andrew Smith and colleagues at
    Cardiff University in Wales separately studied the physiological and
    psychological health of a group of 45 men working on offshore oil
    rigs. Both teams compared the two main shift schedules operated on a
    two-week tour of duty. One was a simple 12-hour shift, with workers
    staying on night shifts or day shifts for the full two weeks. The
    other was a split rota of seven night shifts followed by seven day
    shifts. This was more popular with the workers because they were
    already adapted to night sleeping when they returned home. But it
    proved worst for their health.

    Urine tests from workers on the split shift revealed that levels of
    melatonin, the sleep-regulating hormone normally secreted at night,
    did not become synchronised to the new sleep times after shift
    changes. As well as being more tired and less attentive on the job,
    these unadapted workers showed signs of being at risk of long-term
    health effects. The men had abnormally high levels of fatty acids
    circulating in their blood after meals, compared with the day shift or
    adapted workers. This increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes
    and other metabolic disorders. "The swing shift is the killer," says

    The obvious conclusion is that workers should try to avoid split
    shifts and other schedule changes that put their body clocks out of
    kilter, but Smith points out that the there will be exceptions. "A
    one-size-fits-all approach is a mistake," he says.

    The HSE plans to publicise the findings to employers, and to issue
    recommendations for minimising the dangers, for example by avoiding
    fatty or sugary snacks at night. But legislation forcing companies to
    adopt particular shift schedules is unlikely. "It won't change
    overnight," says Smith. "But it would be rather foolish not to take
    this on board."

Related Articles

      * [12]Body rhythms set a dangerous beat
      * [13]http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg18624935.100
      * 02 April 2005
      * [14]Sleep. who needs it?
      * [15]http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg18424725.200
      * 06 November 2004
      * [16]Night light cancer theory gets new support
      * [17]http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn3400
      * 17 February 2003


      * [18]Josephine Arendt, University of Surrey
      * [19]http://www.surrey.ac.uk/SBMS/ACADEMICS_homepage/arendt_jo/jare
      * [20]Andrew Smith, Cardiff University
      * [21]http://www.cf.ac.uk/psych/
      * [22]Health and Safety Executive
      * [23]http://www.hse.gov.uk/


   12. http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg18624935.100
   13. http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg18624935.100
   14. http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg18424725.200
   15. http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg18424725.200
   16. http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn3400
   17. http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn3400
   18. http://www.surrey.ac.uk/SBMS/ACADEMICS_homepage/arendt_jo/jarendt.htm
   19. http://www.surrey.ac.uk/SBMS/ACADEMICS_homepage/arendt_jo/jarendt.htm
   20. http://www.cf.ac.uk/psych/
   21. http://www.cf.ac.uk/psych/
   22. http://www.hse.gov.uk/
   23. http://www.hse.gov.uk/

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