SHIFT work can be tiring but it can also increase your risk of illness, experts have claimed.
Many people work overnight, from nurses, engineers, paramedics and police officers.
Many people work overnight shifts and experts have warned that they could be at risk of diabetes[/caption]
Experts in Massachusetts, US, found that people who work overnight are actually at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
With type 1 diabetes, a person’s pancreas produces no insulin, but in type 2, cells in the body become resistant to insulin, so a greater amount of insulin is needed to keep blood glucose levels within a normal range.
But shift workers can avoid developing type 2 diabetes if they are able to control their blood sugar levels, the experts say.
They suggest that to do this, shift workers should eat only in the day time, between 7am and 7pm.
During a small trial, the experts found that those who only ate between these hours had lower blood sugar levels after a meal test.
The workers tested worked overnight and abstained from food during their night-shift hours.
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Those who ate meals at night had worse blood sugar control than those who ate between 7am and 7pm.
Type 2 diabetes develops when the insulin-producing cells in the body are unable to produce enough insulin.
It can also be triggered when the insulin that is produced doesn’t work properly.
Typically, people are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes from the age of 40, but there are some exceptions.
In people from southern Asia the disease can appear as early as 25.
And the condition is becoming more prevalent in children and teenagers of all ethnicities.
Experts suggest the rising rates of type 2 diabetes is due to the obesity epidemic – a key cause of type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes can be treated with drugs, and many people can reverse their condition by adopting a healthy lifestyle.
What should your blood sugar levels be and how can you lower them?
Diabetics are urged to monitor their blood sugar levels and if you’re diabetic it’s likely you will have been given a device so you can do this at home.
You will be told what your average blood sugar level is and this is referred to as your HbA1c level.
While they differ for everyone, the NHS says that if you monitor your levels at home then a normal target is 4 to 7mmol/l before eating and under 8.5 to 9mmol/l 2 hours after a meal.
If it’s tested every few months then a normal HbA1c target is below 48mmol/mol (or 6.5% on the older measurement scale).
How to lower your blood sugar levels
The NHS advises:
- change your diet – avoid foods that cause your blood sugar levels to rise, such as cakes or sugary drinks
- drink – make sure to drink lots of sugar free fluids
- exercise – you need to do gentle exercises more often, such as walking
- insulin – if you’re struggling with high blood sugar levels then you might need to adjust your dosage. Your GP or adviser can usually help you with this
Frank Sheer, who works at the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School said they had wanted to test if eating patterns and blood sugar levels were more aligned with your body clock.
For the trial, 19 people had to eat certain meals for breakfast after which their blood sugar level was tested.
Each participant then gradually shifted their sleeping patterns so that after three days they were in a reverse pattern.
Some participants had meals in the day and some at night. They had their test meal of ‘breakfast’ at 7pm in the evening and in these people, their blood sugar levels rose by 19 per cent more than they did when they ate at an early time.
Sheer said a more practical meal schedule needs to be developed for people working shifts.
He explained that one way of managing blood sugar levels would be to eat small amounts at night and avoid foods high in carbohydrates that are known to raise blood sugar levels fast.
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