How Shift Work, Jet Lag Harms Your Sleep and Health

The interesting results of a study on the health of mice exposed to shifting amounts of light has scientists scratching their heads, once again, about the effects of shift work and jet lag on humans.

Apparently, changes in light by six hours backward and forward -- the kind experienced by those crossing multiple time zones on airplanes or doing shift work -- harmed older mice (the age of older humans ranging from 70-90) far more than younger ones. Among the seniors, 68 percent survived backward movements in light, while only 47 percent endured the forward shifts.

It isn't the excessive stress caused by shifting light that scientists believe is contributing to the higher mortality rates among mice, however. Instead, the presence of light affects and disturbs an animal's circadian rhythms and, consequently, its sleep patterns.

If you believe the lack of sleep isn't a huge health concern, you'll want to review an recent study that showed how shifting work schedules elevate a man's prostate cancer risks. And, there's plenty of things you can do to optimize your sleep safely, effectively and without the need for a drug.

USA Today November 7, 2006

BBC News November 6, 2006

Current Biology, Vol. 16, No. 21, November 7, 2006: 914-916

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