Thursday Thought: Weird Work Hours Increase Your Risk of Stroke

If you are constantly changing your sleep and eating habits, or have rotating work shifts, you could be more likely to have a stroke. A new study from the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine found that the constant change in daily routine makes it harder to maintain a regular 24-hour cycle. 

“A person on a shift work schedule, especially on rotating shifts, challenges, or confuses, their internal body clocks by having irregular sleep-wake patterns or meal times,” professor David Earnest, the study's lead researcher, said. 

During research on animal models, the researchers found that shift work schedules were linked to severe strokes, which cause brain damage and the loss of sensation and limb movement. 

Researchers say it's the disruption to the body clock, radically changing the sleep schedule every few days, that can cause such health risks. They also found that these effects were more prevalent in males than females. 

“These sex differences might be related to reproductive hormones. Young women are less likely to suffer strokes, as compared with men of a similar age, and when they do, the stroke outcomes are likely to be less severe. In females, estrogen is thought to be responsible for this greater degree of neuroprotection,” said Farida Sohrabji, one of the study's researchers. 

If you do have an irregular sleep schedule, Earnest suggests maintaining regular meal times. 

“This research has clear implications for shift workers with odd schedules, but probably extends to many of us who keep schedules that differ greatly from day-to-day, especially from weekdays to weekends,” Earnest said. “These irregular schedules can produce what is known as ‘social jet lag,’ which similarly unwinds our body clocks so they no longer keep accurate time, and thus can lead to the same effects on human health as shift work.”