Working night shifts plays havoc with many of the body’s genes, according to UK researchers.
Scientists disrupted the normal sleep-wake cycle of 22 volunteers until they were sleeping in the middle of the day.
They then tested the activity of genes in blood samples taken from the participants. The research showed a six-fold reduction in the number of active genes working to a 24-hour “circadian rhythm” cycle.
They included many linked to the regulation of biological processes, indicating that shiftwork or jet lag may have far-reaching physiological and health effects.
Lead scientist Professor Derk-Jan Dijk, from the Sleep Research Centre at the University of Surrey, said: “This research may help us to understand the negative health outcomes associated with shift work, jet lag and other conditions in which the rhythms of our genes are disrupted.
“The results also imply that sleep-wake schedules can be used to influence rhythmicity in many biological processes, which may be very relevant for conditions in which our body clocks are altered, such as ageing.”
Co-author Simon Archer, also from the University of Surrey, said: “Over 97% of rhythmic genes become out of sync with mistimed sleep, and this really explains why we feel so bad during jet lag, or if we have to work irregular shifts.”
The findings are reported in the latest edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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