Working at Night is Bad for Women

A study published in National Academy of Sciences of the United Kingdom is showing that the shift of the sleep cycle affects cognitive function and mood of women and men in different ways. According to scientists, women experience night shifts worse, and employers should take this into account.

Our biological clock (circadian rhythms) regulates the diurnal cycles of the organism during the transition from wakefulness to sleep, helping the brain to coordinate the various processes - production of hormones, metabolism, blood pressure.There is evidence that some circadian characteristics (frequency of the clock signal, the production of the sleep hormone melatonin) are different in men and women, affecting mental functions. In simple terms, the changes of circadian rhythm have different effects on the brain of men and women.

For the study, researchers studied 16 men and 18 women in a controlled sleep laboratory. In this way, their day lasted 28 hours instead of the usual 24. As the days passed, the participants began to sleep out of sync with their internal clock. Something similar happens to the brain when working at night or when you change time zones.

Every 3 hours during waking hours, participants were performing objective tests of effectiveness (attention, memory, motor coordination). They also passed subjective tests for  fatigue, mood, self-esteem. The researchers then tested the electrical brain activity of the participants with the help of EEG.

The most important finding was that the violation of circadian rhythms stronger impact on women: the objective success rates fell during the night, especially attention, memory and ability to concentrate before dawn.

However, there is good news: a change in circadian rhythms affect the performance of men and women during the night less than it seems. During testing, the volunteers showed better results than it was expected.

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