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Research Suggests Effects of Shift Work or Jet Lag On Our Body Clocks Can Be Reduced By Simply Changing Meal Times (qz.com) 51

Jonathan Johnston reports via Quartz: Around one in five people in Western countries could be putting their health at risk simply by going to work. This is because working shifts outside of the rest of the population's normal hours has been linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and even declines in brain function. Scientists think this is because our bodies are programmed to run on cycles known as circadian rhythms, and changes in our routine caused by shift work or traveling long distances disrupts those rhythms. But our new research suggests that the effects of shift work or jet lag on our body clocks could be reduced simply by changing the times at which people eat. The key to this theory is the idea that each person doesn't just have a single body clock but rather a complex network of billions of cellular clocks found throughout the body. In humans and other mammals, there is a master clock within a region of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) and many peripheral clocks found elsewhere. For our research, we wanted to see how one aspect of this approach -- changing meal times -- affected circadian rhythms. We found that delaying meals by a certain amount caused a similar shift in some peripheral clocks, without changing the master clock. This is important because research in animals suggests peripheral clocks take longer to adjust to a new routine.

Research Suggests Effects of Shift Work or Jet Lag On Our Body Clocks Can Be Reduced By Simply Changing Meal Times

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  • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Saturday June 17, 2017 @09:54AM (#54638777) Journal
    It's an interesting study, but ATFA, human trials were administered on ten healthy males for eleven days. By delaying the mealtime routine, blood glucose levels were affected... not exactly startling.

    If it's true the people already affected by a lifestyle that conflicts with circadian rhythms are not typically pictures of health, we probably need a larger sample that includes overweight, jet-lagged, burnouts with dark circles under their eyes.

    There seems to be enough evidence that routine within the many thousand year-old light and dark cycle is the healthiest lifestyle, but since somebody's got to man the late shift, tweaking the biological clock may be a great second option.

    • Eleven days is not *nearly* long enough to make any useful conclusions. I have done a lot of swings and graveyard work in the past, and it always took me and all my fellow workers took weeks and weeks to see the full effect. It would take even longer now (~30 years on). As noted in another response, switching shifts after a few weeks is even worse, because then you never get to any sort of stable equilibrium (stable, not good). Of course, we tried various approaches to cope and many of them seemed OK for ve

  • by Rande ( 255599 ) on Saturday June 17, 2017 @09:55AM (#54638783) Homepage

    If someone is happy to do night shift or graveyard shift, don't keep switching it around every 2-3 weeks with the inevitable disruption.

    I still haven't heard anyone explain _why_ workplaces want to keep regularly changing everyones shifts.

    It takes me up to a week to get used to a new sleep schedule, so my body would be screwed up for 2 weeks every month if I had to do changing shifts.

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      Why?

      Probably lots of explanations. The person (or algorithm) scheduling people simply doesn't care and has other priorities, like keeping total hours below benefits or other ancillary compensation thresholds.

      There could be a deliberate attempt to disrupt worker relationships to maintain management control of information, prevent cliques or unionization.

      Some employees may have preferential status and get the shifts they want and other slots are simply backfilled based on other criteria.

      Then there's simple i

      • by baegucb ( 18706 )

        I work day shift Thursday and Friday, 12 hour night shifts Saturday and Sunday. And I've been doing it for 15 years. The day shifts are for meetings and the night shifts cover our change window. The only way to do it, for me, is to have a routine of when I sleep and when I eat (never before 6 PM).
        It's not the worst shifts I've worked. That would have been rotating shifts every 3 weeks, early in my career.

    • "If someone is happy to do night shift or graveyard shift"

      a) There aren't enough people who prefer a permanent night shift to staff a permanent night shift
      b) People on opposite shifts need to meet on occasion.
      c) People on shift work need to deal with the outside world not on shift work.
      d) Even if the night shift is preferred, there is always the initial change to the night shift when first taking the job.

    • You aren't kidding.

      I did the graveyard shift at a FedEx Office (before it was known as such) for over a decade. During that time, I worked with easily a dozen other people on that shift, most of whom couldn't hack it.

      Not in terms of work or anything. They just found it very hard to adjust to sleeping during the day, and working at night. (One poor guy was trying to be a full time student, work the graveyard shift, and work part time at his church. He.... didn't last long at the store.)

      And every once in a wh

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      If someone is happy to do night shift or graveyard shift, don't keep switching it around every 2-3 weeks with the inevitable disruption.

      I still haven't heard anyone explain _why_ workplaces want to keep regularly changing everyones shifts.

      It takes me up to a week to get used to a new sleep schedule, so my body would be screwed up for 2 weeks every month if I had to do changing shifts.

      I work in an almost 24/7 operation. The reason we swap shifts around is because we have lives, families, girlfriends/wives. Not all of us want to work nights every single week. Distributing it makes the system fairer so someone isn't stuck with the crappy shifts for weeks or months on end. Also, most people can easily adjust their sleep cycles, for me, I can do it in a day if need be.

      The money for doing shift work is also quite good.

  • That way your body will know it's in a different time zone and automatically adjust. For example, if you're traveling from Europe to NYC, eat a Pastrami on Rye sandwich right after you land.
  • by religionofpeas ( 4511805 ) on Saturday June 17, 2017 @09:59AM (#54638793)

    Research Suggests Effects of Shift Work or Jet Lag On Our Body Clocks Can Be Reduced By Simply Changing Meal Times

    Don't most people already change their meal times to align with the new time zone ?

  • I assume everyone who travels a lot knows this. Eat food at the time you want to be waking up in the new timezone. Your body get's a clue and goes along with it. That's why a fry up in LHR at 7.00am GMT after flying from the USA is ideal.

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      I assume everyone who travels a lot knows this. Eat food at the time you want to be waking up in the new timezone. Your body get's a clue and goes along with it. That's why a fry up in LHR at 7.00am GMT after flying from the USA is ideal.

      I've never considered food to be part of the equation... but something to try out on my next big flight. Then again, I've never been fastidious about keeping to correct meal times, I usually just eat when hungry.

      For me, beating jet lag is easy. The easiest way to adjust your circadian rhythm is to stay up to a normal bed time at your destination, any time past 8pm local time is good. Sometimes this means forcing yourself to stay awake. I always try to get flights that arrive in the late afternoon/evening

      • >I've never considered food to be part of the equation.

        I read it in a paper a few years ago and tried it out and it seemed to work well. Don't eat when you should be sleeping in the destination time zone. Load up at breakfast time in the destination time zone.

        This was at a time where I was effectively permanently recovering or in jetlag due to travelling internationally twice a month. So had plenty of opportunity to I try things. Sunlight, food and sleep at the right times were the key for me. Melotonin

  • I get severe jet lag only when I fly business. They give nice food and bed and you sleep in the plane. Once you land your body takes several days to adjust. When I fly coach, if I force myself to stay awake all/most of the flight, I arrive dead tired. Somehow stay away till 6pm to 9pm local time after landing on the first day. Body will be so tired, it will sleep for 8 to 10 hours. No jet lag from the next day.
    • You do not have to sleep in business. I've found it helpful that you can get breakfast there whenever you want and can thus adjust easier than in couch.

    • >I get severe jet lag only when I fly business.

      I do better in business class. In business I have the choice to sleep or eat. In cattle class, sleeping isn't an option.
      I find there are two major components to feeling crappy, first your body clock being off, second sleep deprivation. If I just sleep as much as possible, it won't improve my body clock any, but at least I'm not sleep deprived and it feels manageable. I try to travel a couple of days early if I need to be on top of my game in meetings.

      I do th

  • Goddamnit people, it's SWING SHIFT specifically that you are talking about. Any scheduled period of time that you work is "shift work", even if it is always the same schedule every day; when that schedule changes radically all the time, that is specifically SWING SHIFT. Stop saying "shift work" when you mean "swing shift".

    • Any scheduled period of time that you work is "shift work", even if it is always the same schedule every day; when that schedule changes radically all the time, that is specifically SWING SHIFT

      Nope. It's the shift between night and day shift, like midnight down. Thanks for playing, though.

  • Sleep when you are tired. Eat when you are hungry. Millions of years of evolution for the win.

We all live in a state of ambitious poverty. -- Decimus Junius Juvenalis

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