Local Researchers Make Link Between Night Shift Work & Diabetes

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — If you regularly worked the night shift, even if you’re retired now and keep a normal daytime schedule, you’re at higher risk of a common disease: diabetes.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh interviewed 1,000 retired night shift workers, classified them into 0 to 7 years, 8 to 14 years, 15 to 20 years, and more than 20 years.

“Our definition was any non-overtime work that fell within the midnight to 6 a.m. window,” says University of Pittsburgh’s Dr. Timothy Monk.

Both body mass index, or BMI, and diabetes rates were higher for night shift retirees compared to day workers.

Even when BMI was taken into account, the risk of diabetes was 1.4 to 2 times greater and there was no difference among the groups, suggesting that any time on night shift might be associated with a higher risk.

The way the body processes energy and uses the hormone insulin can be affected by sleep deprivation and disrupted circadian rhythms, which is your internal clock.

Just about everyone works the night shift at some point in their career, and many jobs are crucial in the overnight hours.

So eliminating night shift is impractical. But it could be made more sensible.

“In many cases, there are situations where it is not always vital that people work through the night. There are ways of having them, for example, work in the evening, or share the work, rather than have them do an overnight. Because there is a cost,” Monk says.

And just because you’ve worked a night shift doesn’t mean diabetes is a done deal.

“Even with this increased likelihood of getting diabetes, 75 percent of the retired shift workers did not get diabetes. So that gives us hope.” Monk said.

If you work night shift, you might want to pay attention to this risk.

Watch your diet, get regular exercise, and ask your doctor about testing your blood sugar at check-ups.

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