Shift work—working non-standard, non-9-to-5 hours—has been linked quite a few times to poor physical health, but now new research suggests it may actually be bad for your brain, too.
A new study suggests a correlation between shift work and impaired cognition (thinking and memory). The study reports that those who did shift work for a decade or more showed, on average, an equivalent of 6.5 years of age-related decline in memory and thinking skills compared to their peers who worked normal hours.
“Our work suggests that shift work is associated with impaired cognition, that the association is stronger and especially significant for exposure durations exceeding 10 years, and finally, and maybe most importantly, that the effect persists after having ceased any form of shift-work schedule,” research director at the National Center for Scientific Research at the University of Toulouse, France, Jean-Claude Marquie, told CBS News. Marquie also reported that it took about five years to recover those cognitive skills.
It’s now known for sure why there’s an association between shift work and lower cognition, but Marquie suspects that if it’s a causation and not a mere correlation that it may be because shift work can disrupt your Circadian rhythms and internal clock. That can lead to a lack of sleep, which can mess up your memory.
That said, if you’re currently doing shift work, make sure you get enough sleep to off-set any possible effects on your hardworking mind.