It’s no secret that shift work plays a nasty game with your sleep patterns. It can be a tough gig to get your recommended 7-8 hours sleep between shifts. Stealing a few hours in the daylight fighting with the 65 coffees you downed to get you through the 3am lull. And what’s that bloat all about?
Though the jet-laggy feeling a nightshift worker suffers is not just due to lack of sleep.
A current study by Griffiths University is looking at gut health and whether or not tending to your gut microbiome can reduce the impact and poor health that comes with shift work.
“Many of the problems associated with night shift work are driven by immune irregularities and chronic inflammation,” says Dr Nic West, “Given the close interaction between our gut bacteria and immune system, the probiotic supplements that alter the make-up of gut bacteria may help to strengthen the immune system.”
Earlier studies have highlighted the impact irregular sleep/eat/light patterns (hello, nightshift) have on the different clocks that govern the natural rhythms of organs and systems within.
The squirmy-gut, and foggy-headed malaise you fight with on the reg if you work the night shift is most likely due to your circadian rhythms being disrupted and your gut health suffering as a result.
What exactly is a circadian rhythm?
Basically, it’s your internal ‘master’ body clock, and it’s responsible for a lot – regulating sleep and wake cycles, hunger and satiety, hormone balance, and behaviour. In short, if you’re not dancing to the same rhythm as your circadian, you may as well leave the dance floor.
Your circadian, or master body clock runs on a 24-hour schedule and takes environmental cues such as light, darkness and food – it’s been programmed since birth.
“We have followed the light-dark cycle throughout the course of our evolution. But nowadays we can do anything we like at any time of day, so we are giving our body clock very confusing time cues.” Aarti Jagannath, professor of circadian biology at the University of Oxford.
When your circadian rhythm is ‘out’ – because you aren’t getting the regular sleep/wake cycles or reading the cues necessary to maintain this rhythm, your health takes a major blow, the liver and gut being two of the things most likely to suffer.
And, in a fun twist of fate, if our peripheral clocks in our gut and liver falter, our circadian (master) rhythm will cop it. If it sounds like we’re going round in circles, we are. It’s a continuous loop that bounces between us, our environment and our microbes, and for those dancing in the dark hours, it’s important we have our hands on the wheel or all manner of things could spin out of control.