As a shift worker, have you ever wondered why you’re constantly getting sick? Perhaps you are so used to feeling under the weather all of the time, that it’s become the new “normal” for you.
Well that’s because your body is functioning at a reduced capacity due to a lack of restorative sleep, similar to that feeling of being jet lagged after a nice vacation away, except that you haven’t flown anywhere!
Every day we push our bodies to work against our body’s natural sleep cycle, which is regulated by two body systems:
- Sleep/wake homeostasis and
- The circadian biological clock
Working at erratic hours means our sleep is constantly thrown out of sync.
So how does this affect our immune system?
This constant disruption to our sleep-wake cycles actually weakens the lining of our gut, making us prone to gastrointestinal complaints. An all too familiar experience for any one who has ever worked 24/7.
As the integrity of our gut is compromised, this has a flow on effect on our immune system because 80% of our immunity is found in the gut, thereby impairing our ability to fight off infections.
The gut itself is made up of gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) which helps to defend our body against harmful pathogens. This helps to explain why supporting the gut is KEY to maintaining a more robust immune system – particularly for anyone working 24/7.