Working the night shift may play havoc with your blood sugar levels, a new study contends.
For the study, researchers looked at data on more than 270,000 people in the United Kingdom and found that those who worked irregular or rotating shifts that included night shifts were 44 percent more likely to have type 2 diabetes than those who worked only days.
“Shift work, particularly night shifts, disrupts social and biological rhythms, as well as sleep, and has been suggested to increase the risk of metabolic disorders, including type 2 diabetes,” said study co-first author Celine Vetter. She directs the University of Colorado’s Circadian and Sleep Epidemiology Laboratory.
The more often a person worked an irregular night shift, the greater their risk for type 2 diabetes, the findings showed. For example, working nights less than three times a month increased the risk by 24 percent, but working nights more than eight times a month increased the risk by 36 percent.
“Our study is one of the first to show a dose-response relationship, where the more often people work nights, the greater their likelihood of having the disease,” Vetter added in a university news release.
However, working a permanent night shift was not linked to an increased risk of diabetes. The study authors suggested that these people might adapt to a consistent night-shift schedule, or perhaps they were “night owls” who had a natural tendency to be awake at night.
About 15 million American workers have permanent night shifts, rotating shifts or shifts with irregular schedules, the study authors noted.
If a person can’t avoid working nights, they may be able to reduce their health risks by eating a healthy diet, watching their weight, and getting enough exercise and sleep, Vetter advised.
The findings could not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between rotating shift work and type 2 diabetes. But, other recent studies have also found associations between these work schedules and heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
The new report was published online Feb. 12 in the journal Diabetes Care.