Do Nurses Working Night Shifts Have Long-Term Brain Impairment?

Written by LeAnn Thieman, CSP, November 26th, 2013

Most past studies have suggested that working a mix of day and night shifts disrupts circadian rhythms – changes in the mind and body that follow a 24-hour cycle. Researchers have thought those disruptions could speed up brain aging.

Dr. Elizabeth E. Devore led a study at the Channing Division of Network Medicine of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

The researchers looked at data from the Nurses’ Health Study, a long-term study that began in 1976. The current analysis included more than 16,000 female nurses who reported on their history of night-shift work in 1988, when they were between the ages of 58 and 68.

Women who reported rotating night shifts for many years tended to be heavier and have less education than other women. But they scored similarly on the thinking and memory tests, the researchers wrote in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

While long-term brain impairment isn’t a proven issue, other studies have tied shift work to chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes, Devore said.

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One response to “Do Nurses Working Night Shifts Have Long-Term Brain Impairment?”

  1. LeAnn,
    I used to work nights. I never thought I was as clear when I would go back and forth. I always felt foggy and vague.

    Thanks for bringing this information to us all! It is surely something to think about.

    Have a wonderful, healthy, and fun holiday weekend!

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