Tag Archives: circadian rhythms

Shift-work causes negative impacts on health, affects men and women differently

Back in the 1970’s I was transferred to the London bureau of Reuters News Service. I spent a year in London and learned many things, personal and professional. As the ‘new guy’ from the States, however, I was subject to shift work. As the news service runs round the clock, our bureau was staffed all 24 hours. It turned out to be very convenient to my superiors to slot me in to fill in for folks. So, in any week, I might work all three different shifts. I can honestly say that I have never felt so ‘messed up’ as I did when I was changing shifts.

Shift-work and irregular work schedules can cause several health-related issues and affect our defense against infection, according to new research from the University of Waterloo.

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These health-related issues occur because the body’s natural clock, called the circadian clock, can be disrupted by inconsistent changes in the sleep-wake schedule and feeding patterns often caused by shift work. To study this, researchers at Waterloo developed a mathematical model to look at how a disruption in the circadian clock affects the immune system in fighting off illness.

“Because our immune system is affected by the circadian clock, our ability to mount an immune response changes during the day,” said Anita Layton, professor of Applied Mathematics, Computer Science, Pharmacy and Biology at Waterloo. “How likely are you to fight off an infection that occurs in the morning than midday? The answer depends on whether you are a man or a woman, and whether you are among quarter of the modern-day labour force that has an irregular work schedule.”

The researchers created new computational models, separately for men and women, which simulate the interplay between the circadian clock and the immune system. The model is composed of the core clock genes, their related proteins, and the regulatory mechanism of pro- and anti-inflammatory mediators. By adjusting the clock, the models can simulate male and female shift-workers. 

The results of these computer simulations conclude that the immune response varies with the time of infection. Model simulation suggests that the time before we go to bed is the “worst” time to get an infection. That is the period of the day when our body is least prepared to produce the pro- and anti-inflammatory mediators needed during an infection. Just as importantly, an individual’s sex impacts the severity of the infection.

“Shift-work likely affects men and women differently,” said Stéphanie Abo, a PhD candidate in Waterloo’s Department of Applied Mathematics. “Compared to females, the immune system in males is more prone to overactivation, which can increase their chances of sepsis following an ill-timed infection.”

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How Sleep Is Affected by Time Changes – WebMD

We are all going to be springing forward Sunday morning as we set our clocks ahead one hour. But, is that an innocent action as far as our body is concerned? WebMd has some useful tips on the temporal alteration.

The daylight-saving time change will force most of us to spring forward and advance our clocks one hour. This effectively moves an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening, giving us those long summer nights. But waking up Monday morning may not be so easy, having lost an hour of precious sleep and perhaps driving to work in the dark with an extra jolt of java. How time changes actually affect you depends on your own personal health, sleep habits, and lifestyle.

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Moving our clocks in either direction changes the principal time cue — light — for setting and resetting our 24-hour natural cycle, or circadian rhythm. In doing so, our internal clock becomes out of sync or mismatched with our current day-night cycle. How well we adapt to this depends on several things.

In general, “losing” an hour in the spring is more difficult to adjust to than “gaining” an hour in the fall. It is similar to airplane travel; traveling east we lose time. An “earlier” bedtime may cause difficulty falling asleep and increased wakefulness during the early part of the night. Going west, we fall asleep easily but may have a difficult time waking.

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Is It Possible to Reset Our Biological Clocks?

Since humans are fundamentally diurnal creatures, staying awake at night can significantly disrupt all of the body’s internal biological clocks. These disruptions are far from harmless: over the long term, they can lead to a high incidence of various health problems, such as metabolic or cardiovascular problems or even certain types of cancer.

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Imagine being able to easily get over all of the discomfort and problems of jet lag or night-shift work. Science is not quite there, but recent work by Marc Cuesta, Nicolas Cermakian and Diane B. Boivin from the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and McGill University has opened new therapeutic avenues for improving the synchronization of the body’s different biological clocks.

Physiological changes over the course of a day are regulated by a circadian system comprised of a central clock located deep within the centre of the brain and multiple clocks located in different parts of the body.

This study, which was published in The FASEB Journal (published by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology), included 16 healthy volunteers who were studied in temporal isolation chambers. These results show, for the first time, that the peripheral biological clocks located in white blood cells can be synchronized through the…

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