Sunday, April 21, 2024

The ‘enormous sacrifice’ of shift work can lead to significantly earlier deaths, a senior exec at wearable firm Whoop says

by gemnews
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WHOOP Vice President of Performance Science Kristen Holmes.
WHOOP Vice President of Performance Science Kristen Holmes.
  • People in professions where they have to work night shifts are more likely to develop health issues.
  • That's according to Whoop's vice president of performance science Kristen Holmes. 
  • Holmes explained that night shifts disrupt a person's circadian rhythm and can cause poor mental health.

People who work night shifts may experience disruption to their quality of life and are also at risk of dying as much as 15 years sooner than those who have a more natural work pattern, according to a senior executive at fitness tracker company Whoop.

Kristen Holmes, Whoop's vice president of performance, who has worked for the company since 2016, spoke with Steven Bartlett for an episode of his podcast The Diary of a CEO. Holmes discussed the importance of sleep, getting sunlight, and how shift workers are impacted by an irregular sleep schedule. 

"Anyone who is up for more than two hours between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. is considered a shift worker," Holmes said in the podcast referring to workers like doctors, nurse, firefighters, police officers, truck drivers and more. 

"We know those folks on average are going to die 15 years sooner," she added. "Shift work is considered a carcinogen by the World Health Organization. Those folks are making an enormous sacrifice." 

Holmes didn't refer to a specific scientific study when speaking about early deaths, but the negative impact of shift work is well documented.

One recent study of 60,000 middle-aged nurses published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that night owls were more likely to engage in unhealthy lifestyles including smoking, lack of sleep, and being physically inactive. They also had a 72% higher risk of developing diabetes. 

Women who worked rotating night shifts for five or more years were slightly more likely to die from cardiovascular diseases, another study published in Science Daily in 2015 found. Women who worked those shifts for 15 or more years had an increased risk of dying from lung cancer. 

Holmes told Bartlett that she studies ways to "offset some of the impact of being awake during the biological night," and "minimize the disruption to our circadian rhythms," which can include when you eat protein or viewing light. 

Circadian rhythm refers to one's sleep-wake cycle over the course of a 24-hour day and is influenced by how light or dark it is outside. 

"The fact is that the roster size at these hospitals is just simply not big enough to be able to deploy schedules that mitigate some of the risk associated with this disrupted circadian rhythm," Holmes said. 

She added that low moods, depression, and suicide are higher amongst people in professions where they have to work night shifts and operate "counter to their natural light-dark cycle." 

Other health effects of being awake at night can include sleep disorders, poor digestive health, and high blood pressure, Business Insider previously reported

Read the original article on Business Insider

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