Shift Work and Our Disrupted Body Clocks

When we work irregular hours, especially 24/7, it contributes to a very disrupted sleep/wake cycle.

Ongoing disruption to our sleep/wake cycle, otherwise known as our circadian rhythm or innate body clock, can have a flow-on effect on many aspects of our health.

This breakdown of the normal functioning of our body clock can be likened to having a “broken body clock” of sorts.

It’s why finding ways to recalibrate this disrupted sleep/wake cycle or body clock needs to be a high priority for anyone who works shift work.

There are many ways to do this including timed light therapy, scheduled exercise, and the use of pharmaceuticals, however, one of the best ways is being mindful of when you are eating.

In other words, scheduling your meals so that you’re eating more in accordance with your natural body clock or circadian rhythm.

This is because studies have shown that when eating at inappropriate times (eg; during the night) it can lead to metabolic dysfunction as many physiological processes are designed to happen at certain times of the day and night. For example gastrointestinal function, nutrient absorption, pancreatic insulin secretion, liver enzyme activity – to name a few.

References:

Schroeder, A & Colwell, C 2013, ‘How to fix a broken clock’, Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, vol. 34, no. 11, pp. 1-30.

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