Night Shift In Early Adulthood Contributes To Sleep Problems Later In Life, Study Shows

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A recent study from New York University reveals that working night shifts and irregular schedules in one’s 20s can have long-term health consequences. These volatile work schedules may lead to sleep problems, as well as physical and mental health issues by the age of 50.

Irregular work schedules for young adults affect long term health

Research suggests that the traditional nine-to-five work schedule offers the best protection for long-term health. Young adults working irregular hours or at night experience poorer sleep quality and are more prone to depression later in life compared to those with standard daytime schedules.

In a study utilizing data from The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth-1979 (NLSY79), Wen-Jui Han of NYU found that only 26% of over 7,000 individuals surveyed consistently maintained a stable work schedule with standard hours over a 30-year period. Approximately 35% mostly adhered to a normal schedule, while 17% began with standard hours in their 20s but shifted to volatile schedules in their 30s, which may include evening shifts, night work, or fluctuating daily hours. Additionally, 10% of participants did not work during the study period.

Blacks and women susceptible to health risks due to work schedules

The study published in PLOS One reveals significant health disparities among workers who transition from regular to unpredictable work schedules in their 30s, akin to the impact of having only a high school education. Black Americans were found to be more susceptible to volatile work schedules, leading to health issues in middle age. The research suggests that deviating from the conventional nine-to-five routine may result in poor sleep, physical exhaustion, and emotional strain, potentially increasing the risk of future diseases.

In an increasingly unequal society, work, originally meant to sustain us, has become a threat to health due to precarious arrangements. Vulnerable groups like women, Black individuals, and those with low education levels bear the brunt of these health risks. Studies show that night shift work may lead to impaired memory and cognition, with the most significant effects observed in those working more night shifts or for extended periods.

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