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Saturday 24th August 2019

Diabetes risk for shift workers

12th April 2012

Researchers have suggested that shift workers may be more at risk of diabetes or obesity because they are getting too little sleep at the wrong time of day.


A study of 21 people, in a controlled environment, revealed that changes to normal sleep meant the body struggled to control sugar levels.

The British charity Diabetes UK said the research was interesting, but warned that laboratory conditions were not the same as working night shifts.

Head of research Dr Matthew Hobbs said: “This is an interesting study which shows that under extreme conditions involving sleep deprivation and 'tricking' the body clock, participants produced less insulin and therefore had higher blood glucose levels then when they were able to sleep normally and live according to normal daily rhythms.”

However, he added: “Clearly, this does not equate to the normal experience of shift workers who are able, for example, to use bright lights when not sleeping.

“The study also involved only 21 people. For these reasons, it is not possible to conclude that the findings would translate to real conditions in the wider public.”

The research was carried out at Brigham and Women's Hospital in America with the findings published in Science Translational Medicine.

The trial participants had three weeks of disruption to their sleep and body clocks and allowed limited sleep during certain periods. At those times sugar levels in their blood were significantly increased immediately after a meal and during ‘fasting’ parts of the day.

Some participants developed early symptoms of diabetes within weeks.


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