HSW 33 – Nursing and Smart DNA Testing with Cara Henstridge.

Healthy Shift Worker Podcast Episode:

Nurses represent a massive part of the shift working population so I’m super excited to be chatting with a lady who has been working in this field for over 30 years which yes, I agree, is a very long time!

Cara Henstridge works at Sandringham hospital in Melbourne and shares what its like to run on limited sleep as a result of working night shifts, along with tight 8-hour turnarounds, combined with the added stress of shortened and/or missed meal breaks.

After an epic 30-year stint in nursing, Cara had a longing to be part of the preventative health care model, so decided to combine her nursing skills and love for helping people by becoming a genetic testing practitioner with Smart DNA. Cara chats to us about nutrigenomics, which is the study of how our nutrition interacts with our genes; polymorphisms and SNP’s (pronounced “snips”) which are our very own individual gene variations; what’s involved in getting our genes tested; and why it’s a particularly good tool for shift workers to use as a form preventative health care.

For more information of the Saliva Genomic Wellness Test and GUT Microbiome Test visit the links mentioned in the podcast below:

Cara’s Facebook page – Max your DNA

Cara’s email – maxyourdna@gmail.com

Smart DNA website

TED Talk – How to read the genome

Shift Work Fatigue: Why Your Ability To Cope, May Be Influenced By Your Genes.

Have you ever noticed how some of your workmates seem to have this amazing ability to cope with working 24/7 ?  In other words, no matter how much time you invest in eating well, exercising and resting, your colleagues seem to be able to “bounce back” from ongoing and relentless sleep deprivation way better than you?

It kind of makes us a little jelly jealous don’t you think?!

But there could be a valid reason for this, and it may be due to your genes.

Now of course I’m not referring to the denim variety of “jeans”, but rather our “genes”, which make you the person that you are.

Genes are made of a chemical called DNA, which is short for ‘deoxyribonucleic acid’ and is comprised of two long, thin strands twisted around each other similar to a spiral staircase, just like the image above.

Our genes contain the information our bodies need to make proteins, which form the structure of our bodies, as well play an important role in the processes that keep us alive – so yes, they’re super important.

But what have our genes got to do with our ability to handle shift work?

Well in a study published in the journal – Sleep, a group of Finnish workers were analysed to determine if there were any genetic risk factors that highlighted an intolerance to shift work.

And the results were surprising.

The study, which was undertaken over a 12 month period, involved over 400 shift workers from two Finnish shift working groups – airline workers and nurses.  The results from the study indicated a variation in the melatonin receptor 1A (MTNR1A) gene, was linked to the job-related exhaustion experienced by shift workers.

This variation in the melatonin 1A (MTNR1A) gene, leads to a weaker signal of melatonin being produced in the brain, a hormone which is necessary to trigger sleep.

So whilst our chronotype can be an influential factor in how we tend to cope with working 24/7, which is a person’s propensity to sleep at a particular time of the 24-hour period, and plays a significant role in determining whether we’re a “morning” or “night” kind of person – our genes can also be an important factor too.

It may definitely provide some new insights into why some people are better adapted to shift work than others, given ongoing sleep deprivation and continual disruption to our daily rhythms forms a huge part of working 24/7.



US National Library of Medicine 2017, What is a gene?, Genetics Home Reference.

Sulkava S, Ollila HM, Alasaari J, Puttonen S, Härmä M, Viitasalo K, Lahtinen A, Lindström J, Toivola A, Sulkava R, Kivimäki M, Vahtera J, Partonen T, Silander K, Porkka-Heiskanen T, Paunio, T 2016, ‘Common genetic variation near melatonin receptor 1A gene linked to job-related exhaustion in shift workers’, Sleep, vol. 40, no. 1, pp. 1-10.