Night Shift Work May Increase Diabetes Risk

by Chris Curley on December 9, 2011

Working the overnight shift may increase your risk of developing type-2 diabetes over time, TIME reported Dec. 7.

Women who work rotating night shifts for one to two years increase their risk of developing diabetes by 5 percent over the next 20 years compared to women who work regular hours, Frank Hu, Ph.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health and his colleagues report. Women who stay in late-night shifts for 10 to 19 years increase their diabetes risk by 40 percent, and working the late shift for 20 years or more increases risk by 60 percent.

Late-shift work disrupts the body’s sleep rhythms and confuses the hormones that control appetite, which can lead to unhealthy late-night snacking, the researchers say. Since the body’s metabolism naturally slows down when it’s dark out, that could lead to weight gain and, in turn, to diabetes.

“It’s something people should keep in mind,” Hu says. “If they minimize or reduce the time they work on night shifts, they may be able to attenuate their risk.”

Over a quarter of American workers do some third-shift work on a regular basis, the researchers note.

The study appears online in the journal PLoS Medicine.

Reader Question: Have you ever worked an overnight shift? 

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