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Working rotating night shifts may lead to increased risk of disease

Creatas | Jupiterimages

Creatas | Jupiterimages

Nothing is tougher than flip-flopping from days to nights. You already know that it wreaks havoc on your circadian rhythm and social life…and now, according to a new nurse study, working rotating night shifts may also harm your long-term health.

The research comes from the Harvard Medical School, and looks at 22 years of data from around 75,000 nurses in the United States. The study suggests a link between working rotating night shifts and ill effects on health, according to HealthDay. However, it did not prove a cause and effect. The research defined a rotating night shift as at least three nights spent working in a month that also included day and evening shifts.

Those who worked rotating night shifts for six to 14 years had a 19 percent higher risk of heart disease; those who worked nights for 15 years or more had a 23 percent higher risk. Lung cancer also was more prevalent among those working nights, with those who did so for 15 years or more having a 25 percent higher risk of death from the disease. Overall, those who worked more than five years had an 11 percent higher risk of death from all causes.

“These results add to prior evidence of a potentially detrimental relation of rotating night shift work and health and longevity,” said Eva Schernhammer, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard and associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston who led the researchers. She also said further research is needed to see what individual traits may interact with working the night shift that can harm health.

The research will be published in the March 2015 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Do these results surprise you? Do you work rotating shifts and, if so, how do you cope?

Psst! For tips on dealing with rotating shifts (and getting more rest!), check out these articles:

3 ways to break out of the “sleepy nurse” rut
How to be a well-rested nurse
Too many hours, too little sleep

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