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Shift Work: Disrupted Circadian Rhythms and Sleep—Implications for Health and Well-being

Abstract

Purpose of Review

Our 24/7 society is dependent on shift work, despite mounting evidence for negative health outcomes from sleep displacement due to shift work. This paper reviews short- and long-term health consequences of sleep displacement and circadian misalignment due to shift work.

Recent Findings

We focus on four broad health domains: metabolic health, risk of cancer, cardiovascular health, and mental health. Circadian misalignment affects these domains by inducing sleep deficiency, sympathovagal and hormonal imbalance, inflammation, impaired glucose metabolism, and dysregulated cell cycles. This leads to a range of medical conditions, including obesity, metabolic syndrome, type II diabetes, gastrointestinal dysfunction, compromised immune function, cardiovascular disease, excessive sleepiness, mood and social disorders, and increased cancer risk.

Summary

Interactions of biological disturbances with behavioral and societal factors shape the effects of shift work on health and well-being. Research is needed to better understand the underlying mechanisms and drive the development of countermeasures.

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Correspondence to Hans P.A. Van Dongen.

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Stephen James, Kimberly Honn, Shobhan Gaddameedhi, and Hans Van Dongen each declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Circadian Rhythm Disorders

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James, S.M., Honn, K.A., Gaddameedhi, S. et al. Shift Work: Disrupted Circadian Rhythms and Sleep—Implications for Health and Well-being. Curr Sleep Medicine Rep 3, 104–112 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40675-017-0071-6

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Keywords

  • Circadian misalignment
  • Sleep displacement
  • Metabolic health
  • Cancer risk
  • Heart health
  • Mental health