Recent studies show night shifts affect brain functionality of women more than men

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According to a new study, disruption of a good night’s sleep especially after working in night shifts may affect women more than men. Research conducted by the Surrey Sleep Research Centre (SSRC) at the University of Surrey, UK, showed how shift in sleep-wake cycles affects the brain functionality of women and men differently.
The researchers put 16 male and 18 female volunteers on a pattern of 28-hour days in a controlled sleep lab at the SSRC. The volunteers were subjected to a 28 hour pattern of day and night changes, rather than the 24 hour pattern. Eventually the participants began to sleep out of sync with their internal biological clocks, similar to people who work in night shifts.
Every time a participant woke up, he or she was subjected to 3-hour performance test to asses the attention, motor control and working memory. Self-assessments of the participant’s sleepiness and mood were also taken into account. It was found that the desynchronized sleep-wake cycle resulted in impaired cognitive skills in the participants along with the decline of mood.

The more crucial find was that the effects were significantly greater in women than men. Female subjects were more cognitively impaired than men early in the morning—typically during the time night shifts end in the real world.

“We show for the first time that challenging the circadian clock affects the performance of men and women differently,” said Nayantara Santhi, one of the researchers at the university.

“Our research findings are significant in view of shift work related cognitive deficits and changes in mood. Extrapolation of these results would suggest that women may be more affected by night-shift work than men,” added Santhi.

“These results show that in both men and women circadian rhythmicity affects brain function and that these effects differ between the sexes in a quantitative manner for some measures of brain function,” said another researcher Derk-Jan Dijk.

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