A new study from the University of Surrey has highlighted the potential risk to worker health from shift work after it found that the daily rhythms of our genes are disrupted when sleep times shift.
Researchers placed twenty-two participants on a 28-hour day in a controlled environment without a natural light-dark cycle. As a result, their sleep-wake cycle was delayed by four hours each day, until sleep occurred 12 hours out of sync with their brain clock and in the middle of what would have been their normal ‘daytime’. The team then collected blood samples to measure the participants’ rhythms of gene expression.
During this disruption of sleep timing, there was a six-fold reduction in the number of genes that displayed a circadian rhythm (a rhythm with an approximately 24 hour period). This included many regulators associated with transcription and translation, indicating widespread disruption to many biological processes.