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Long Term Shift Work Can Lead To Impaired Brain Power

Update Date: Nov 04, 2014 09:41 AM EST

Long term shift work is associated with impaired brain power, according to a new study. 

The study found that the impact was stronger after a period of 10 or more years of exposure and that although the effects can be reversed, recovery may take at least five years. 

Shift work, like chronic jet lag, is known to disrupt the body's internal clock (circadian rhythms), and it has been linked to a range of health problems, such as ulcers, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and some cancers, adds the press release. 

However, not much is known about its potential impact on brain function, like memory and processing speed. 

For the study, researchers tracked the cognitive abilities of more than 3000 people who were either working in a wide range of sectors or had retired at three time points: 1996, 2001 and 2006. 

The analysis showed that those who currently, or who had previously, worked shifts had lower scores on memory, processing speed, and overall brain power than those who had only worked normal office hours.

"The cognitive impairment observed in the present study may have important safety consequences not only for the individuals concerned, but also for society as a whole, given the increasing number of jobs in high hazard situations that are performed at night," warned the researchers.

The study is published in British Medical Journal. 

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