You have to love medical studies that don’t offer viable alternatives. Hey, this is horrible for you. Good luck. A new study is out today giving bad news to shift workers everywhere. Not only is your sleep pattern and social life out of whack, but it’s also making you dumber. The irregular hours add up in your brain, and affect your ability to think.

A new study, published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, looked at the long-term cognitive effects on people working odd hours or with frequently changing shifts.

Impairment was found in those that engaged in shift work, and the effects were more pronounced as people worked the hours for longer stretches of time. Those with a decade of shift work showed a cognitive loss the equivalent of a brain aging 6.5 years.

There’s is a piece of good news, if you can swing it. The effects are reversed if you can come off shift work. Granted, the operative word is if you can. In the current economic climate, people in shift work aren’t exactly going to be throwing the latest medical study at their boss.

Study Parameters

Researchers point out that their study is the first that shows cognitive impairment, as a result of shift work, can be reversed. Almost 2,000 participants were given cognitive assessments in 1996, 2001 and 2006. Ages for the first test were exactly 32, 42, 52 and 62.

Nearly half the sample worked shifts at least 50 days out of the year.

The researchers are quick to point out that a definitive conclusion can’t be drawn as to cause and effect, it is obvious that the late nights upset the body’s natural clock. They suggest that disruptions could “generate physiological stressors, which may in turn affect the functioning of the brain.”

Additional research seems to confirm this study. Vitamin D deficiency in workers has been linked to cognitive declines. This shows that long-term night shift workers are more prone to cognitive issues.

The study points out a massive problem that needs to be addressed. The question is, with so many out of the workforce looking in, is health the number one priority for companies looking to fill all three shifts?

Read the full study here.


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