The Science Behind Why Working In Shifts Puts You At Higher Risk Of Developing Diabetes

A significant chunk of India’s workforce functions in shifts, including nights, whether working in BPOs, emergency services, or the hospitality industry. While we take pride in the night life and in the fact that city’s like Mumbai never sleep, there’s a dark side to this sleeplessness.

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Shift workers are exposed to serious health risks that extend beyond a disrupted sleep schedule and impaired social life. A recent study has confirmed that individuals who work at odd hours involving night or rotating shifts are at a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

The Night Shift Diabetes Connection

“Researchers found that any kind of shift work, even for a brief period can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, with those working regular rotating shifts having a 40 percent higher risk”

United World Against Diabetes is an NGO associated with the United Nations, engaged in work to spread awareness and conduct research into diabetes. Researchers from the organization investigated the relationship between shift work or sleeping patterns and blood glucose levels of employees engaged in shift work at BPOs and IT firms in Pune over the past two years. They found that any kind of shift work, even for a brief period can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by around 10 percent. The risk was found to significantly higher for those working rotating shifts for a prolonged period – such individuals have a 40 percent higher risk.

Studies conducted in other countries over the past decade have also pointed towards the high risk of type 2 diabetes among shift workers. Of course, diabetes is just one of the many health risks that workers face when performing in shifts.

Why Working In Shifts Increases Diabetes Risk

“Your circadian rhythm determines how your body functions normally and a disruption to this natural body clock throws various functions out of gear, including cardiovascular, digestive, immune, and hormonal functions, as well as metabolism”

Health care experts believe that sleeping at irregular or odd hours on a frequent basis messes with the body’s natural clock, called the circadian rhythm. This isn’t just true for prolonged shift work, but can also have a physiological impact in the short term, which is why night flights also cause jet lag and fatigue.

While this may seem like a minor problem that has no bearing on diabetes risk, it has a huge impact. Your circadian rhythm determines how your body functions normally, and a disruption to this natural body clock throws various functions out of gear. This includes cardiovascular, digestive, immune, and hormonal functions, as well as metabolism. This increases your risk of diabetes directly and indirectly.

“Shift work is also associated with other health risks like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity, which are collectively described as metabolic syndrome”

As sugar metabolism and insulin sensitivity is affected by working in shifts it directly increases the risk of diabetes. Shift work is also associated with other health risks like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity, which are collectively described as metabolic syndrome. This is extremely worrying, as metabolic syndrome is often a precursor to diabetes. It also increases the risk of other serious lifestyle diseases like cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as kidney disorders, gastrointestinal disease, depression, and heart attacks or strokes.

The Takeaway

Despite the health risks, giving up a job because of night or rotating shifts is not an option for most people. To safeguard against the risk of diabetes and other health conditions while working shifts you should make it a point to maintain healthy weight by following as disciplined and regular a routine as your shift permits. Make sure to follow a healthy balanced diet and get regular physical activity, as this can help offset some of the risk of working shifts.

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