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To avoid the yawns, the best time to start work is between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.

June 8, 2010 |  6:00 am

Night It takes people working around the clock to keep modern society functioning. But studies show people who work night or graveyard shifts pay a price. Working at night is linked to disrupted sleep patterns and an increased risk for several types of health problems, including obesity, heart disease and cancer. The fatigue that results from working odd hours increases the rate of accidents and mood disorders, too.

A new study shows just how sensitive humans are to work shifts. Using a mathematical model, researchers found that the total duration of sleep ranges from 4.5 hours to 8 hours depending on the start time of a person's work shift. The maximum estimated sleep duration occurs among people who start shifts between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., said the researchers, from Washington State University's branch in Spokane. The minimum estimated sleep duration occurs when the shift starts between 8 p.m. and midnight.

Minimum on-the-job fatigue occurs when a shift starts at 9 a.m. and maximum fatigue occurs when the shift starts at 11 p.m. Workers who start shifts just after midnight fare better than workers who start at 11 p.m. probably because starting work after midnight allows those individuals to sleep before work. Shifts that start just before midnight do not allow for a sufficient pre-shift sleep because the timing conflicts with the body's circadian rhythm. Early evening is a time of day when the body is geared to be alert.

The take-home message of the study is that employers may want to avoid scheduling work shifts that start between 8 p.m. and midnight. The study was presented Tuesday at the Associated Professional Sleep Societies meeting.

-- Shari Roan

Photo credit: Jay L. Clendenin  /  Los Angeles Times

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Comments (8)

I find this article fascinating and useful. Really, people working at night produce less melatonine, which plays a central role in controlling oncogenesis. As a matter of fact, Oncological Terrain-Dependent, "Inherited Real Risk" in well defined biological system area, as well as cancer initial stage in individuals involved always by oncological terrain, can worse under above-mentioned condition(http://discussions.latimes.com/20/lanews/la-he-closer-20100524/10), formerly illustrated in a awful number of books and articles (Ask Google.com) . As a consequence, physicians have to enrol in Primary Prevention exclusively individuals involved by Oncological Terrain, showing such as INHERITED Real Risk of prostate cancer, especially when they are working at night!
Finally, in a long, clinical, well-established experience it proved to be efficacious the treatment based on Mediterranean diet,including physical regular excercise, and excluding tobacco smoking, Coniugated-Melatonin, LLLT personalized applications.

Oh, OK, let's tell hospitals that their patients just have to take care of themselves at night.

Oh, OK, let's tell hospitals that their patients just have to take care of themselves at night.

I worked evenings for years. I'm a night person, and it fit my schedule perfectly. I would go to sleep at 4 am and wake at noon and always felt totally refreshed. It doesn't matter what time of day you sleep; it matters whether you believe you MUST sleep at a particular time. The body is amazingly adaptive and having a different sleep schedule can easily work for you as it did for me for 30 years.

" worked evenings for years. I'm a night person, and it fit my schedule perfectly. I would go to sleep at 4 am and wake at noon and always felt totally refreshed. It doesn't matter what time of day you sleep; it matters whether you believe you MUST sleep at a particular time. The body is amazingly adaptive and having a different sleep schedule can easily work for you as it did for me for 30 years."
***
Dude - this was your natural schedule. That's what the article is pointing out - that people who can sleep when their natural schedule tells them to do fine. Saying people who force themselves into an UNnatural schedule will be as peppy as you were in your natural schedule is entirely missing the point.

As someone who naturally likes being awake at night, I find it very easy to work my 11pm to 7am shift. I go to bed around noon and wake up around 8pm, get plenty of sleep, and feel well rested when it's time to go to work. After work I hit the gym and get in a good workout, come home, shower, eat, and relax before bed. This schedule is definitely not for everyone, though.

Even before I had kids, I find it really hard to work late at night. And now that I do, it gets even harder. I think my body needs the nighttime rest so I could take care of my kids better. I prefer working early AM. I guess each person has a different body clock and we just have to do with what works best for each of us. I make sure to keep in mind Dyan's tips to make the most of my work and home life. If you'd like to read about it, it's at http://sn.im/wyezt

@ Michelle:
The article states it is best if shifts don't START between 8pm and midnight. not that people can't/shouldn't work nights. A round the clock operation such as a hospital could do shifts from 9am-5pm, 5pm-1am, and 1am-9am instead of the normal 7am-3pm, 3pm-11pm, 11pm-7am shifts.



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