Hormonal changes in satisfied and dissatisfied shift workers across a shift cycle

September 10, 2003 (Bethesda, MD) -- There is ample evidence that shift work, including night work, increases the risk for developing both psychological and physiological health problems. The most well established links exist between shift work and increased risk for cardiovascular heart disease, gastrointestinal disorders, and clinical sleep disorders. The risk for these problems increases with the number of years of exposure to shift work and it is believed that the main cause of the increased illnesses is due mainly to the disruption of sleep/wake behavior and the resulting conflict with the circadian system. To date, there is limited knowledge of the mechanisms behind disease susceptibility in shift workers. A new study contributes to the growing body of knowledge.


Studies have shown that sleep in shift workers is often displaced and/or shortened, particularly in connection with morning and night shifts. Several laboratory studies confirm that such sleep disturbances alter the regulation of several hormones including cortisol, prolactin and growth hormone in both shift/night workers as well as other populations. Workplace studies have shown that working nights and being on-call are not only related to increased adrenalin release, but also to reduced levels of testosterone.

A New Study

While the main negative effects of shift work are well documented, not all individuals are affected equally. In an attempt to better understand the variation in tolerance of shift work, researchers have focused on the endocrine differences between two types of shift workers, satisfied and dissatisfied. Their results show that the dissatisfied shift workers accumulated problems with sleep and fatigue across a work period.

The study, entitled "Hormonal Changes in Satisfied and Dissatisfied Shift Workers Across a Shift Cycle," was conducted by John Axelsson, Torbjrn kerstedt and Gran Kecklund, all of the National

Contact: Donna Krupa
American Physiological Society

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