Long term shift work, which is known to disrupt the body’s internal clock and has been linked to a range of health problems, has now been linked to impaired brain power.
European researchers found the impact was stronger after 10 or more years of exposure and recovery can take at least five years
Shift work, like chronic jet lag, is known to disrupt the body’s internal clock and it has been linked to a range of health problems, such as ulcers, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and some cancers.
But little is known about its potential impact on brain function, such as memory and processing speed.
The study in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine tracked the cognitive abilities of more than 3,000 people.
Those who currently, or who had previously worked shifts had lower scores on memory, processing speed, and overall brain power than those who had only worked normal office hours.
This is an observational study so no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect but the disruption of the body clock as a result of shift work could generate physiological stressors, which may in turn affect the functioning of the brain.
Other research has also linked vitamin D deficiency caused by reduced exposure to daylight, to poorer cognition.
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