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Shift Work & Sleep Schedules Affect Men And Women Differently

Apr 22, 2016 03:58 AM EDT
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While there had been previous studies identifying the effects of disrupted circadian rhythms in both men and women, looking particularly on how shifted sleep-wake cycles affect each differently is unknown.

A new study from the Surrey Sleep Research Centre at the University of Surrey, claims that night shifts affect the brain performance of both sex differently and it is more disruptive to women's brains more than men's.

According to Indiatimes, the researchers compared and assessed the circadian and sleep-wake-dependent regulation of cognition of 16 men and 18 women by tracing their brain waves through encephalography in a controlled environment.

"The team compared the brain functions of 16 male and 18 female participants, who were kept on 28-hour a day cycle in a controlled environment without natural light dark cycles. This effectively desynchronised the sleep-wake cycle from the brain's 24-hour clock, similar to jet lag or a shift work scenario," the article said.

The study, published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences said the findings are valuable to "shift-work-related cognitive deficits and disturbances of mood, which are more prevalent in women."

"We show for the first time that challenging the circadian clock affects the performance of men and women differently. Our research findings are significant in view of shift work-related cognitive deficits and changes in mood. Extrapolation of these results would suggest that women may be more affected by night-shift work than men," Co-author, Dr Nayantara Santhi from the University of Surrey, told Healthcanal. While impairment in cognitive skills such as attention, motor control and working memory were seen as a result in both sexes, the effects on women are more detrimental. 

More than cognitive impairment, disturbed circadian rhythm may influence the secretion of hormones in one's body, influencing apetite and weight. This may result in health conditions such as obesity and diabetes. Furthermore, a disrupted circadian rhythm weakens the immune system and increases the risk of having cardiovascular diseases, the leading cause of death for both men and women in America, as per CDC.

Meanwhile, Sleepfoundation.org said there are some strategies you can do to re-align your body's circadian rhythm. These include using light and melatonin. For example, sleeping in a completely dark room with minimum noise. It also added that taking a nap as short as 20 minutes in the middle of a night shift may advance brain function as it can instantly improve alertness, performance and mood.

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