If late-night TV hosts Craig Ferguson, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Fallon actually did their shows around the time they're broadcast, they'd be candidates for late-shiftiness. But they don't. Doctors and nurses (especially), police and firemen, transit drivers, loads of waitresses and factory workers all do. And that disruption of your body's built-in circadian rhythms, which control many biological functions, triggers a low-level but persistent inflammatory response. (You're not made to stay awake while it's dark.) That's why obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and cancer risks are amped up by nightshift work. (Breast cancer risk increases 30 percent in women who've worked nights.)
So the bottom line is this: If you're working the late shift (more than a third of the working population in North American does at some time), you can protect your health by:
-Exercising before or after your shift. It helps reset your clock and eases inflammation.
-Increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables that are high in flavonoids (orange juice) and antioxidants (berries). That also tames inflammation.
-Managing stress. Working nights can pump up stress hormones that fuel disease; stress reduction lowers cortisol levels. (More on relieving nightshift stress coming soon!)
-Getting sleep! Adults need seven to eight hours a night, preferably during the same hours.
You can do late-shift work and stay healthy, but you have to work at it a bit more than a 9-to-5er. And consider that your good fortune! You'll leave them in the dust.
© 2012 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.