Shift Workers More Susceptible to Infections

shift workers
shift workers
Photograph: Shelly Strazis/Getty Images/Uppercut


This is something I can relate to. For many years, off and on, I worked shifts. I can certainly vouch for the fact that your body clock gets completely screwed up. Apart from feeling tired all the time I can’t recall any actual infections. Nevertheless, the fact remains that shift work can have some nasty effects on your body…

An often-disrupted body clock leaves a person more prone to contracting diseases than those who go to bed regularly at a normal time

People are more susceptible to infection at certain times of the day, research from the University of Cambridge suggests. Related: A hard day’s night: the hidden health risks of working the night shift Academics found that the body clock affected the ability of viruses to replicate and spread between cells, with those in a resting phase or with a disrupted body clock more likely to succumb to illness.

When a virus enters the body, it hijacks cells to help it replicate and spread. The resources of cells fluctuate throughout the day, partly in response to our circadian rhythms in effect, our body clock which controls functions including sleep patterns, body temperature, our immune systems and the release of hormones.

A study of mice saw creatures infected with herpes at different times of the day, with scientists measuring levels of virus infection and spread. The mice lived in a controlled environment where 12 hours were in daylight and 12 hours were dark.

Researchers found that virus replication in those mice infected at the very start of the day equivalent to sunrise, when these nocturnal animals start their resting phase was 10 times greater than in mice infected 10 hours into the day, when they are transitioning to their active phase.

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