Angel Freeman began working for University of Missouri (MU) Health five years ago. She monitors patients’ brainwaves and looks for abnormalities consistent with a stroke or seizure. Freeman works the night shift, sometimes clocking 60 hours during the week, including overtime. She said she appreciates the freedom and challenges of working nights--she and three co-workers perform without a supervisor, which pushes them to take more initiative and sharpens their skills. But she often struggles with sleep on the days she’s not working. The first day after a week of night shifts, she has an uncomfortable decision to make: If she comes home in the morning and goes to bed, she is up all night; if she stays up all day and goes to sleep at a normal time, she cannot sleep all night. The lack of sleep and general lethargy has left her without the energy to exercise, and Freeman estimates that she has gained 10 to 12 pounds this year. “I would like to say it is related to quarantine, but it’s not,” she said. Her experience is not an outlier. MU researcher David Gozal, MD, an international expert in the field of sleep medicine, said night-shift workers are more likely to suffer from insomnia, diabetes, obesity., and a wide variety of other health problems. Night shifts and other non-traditional work hours also put workers at risk for developing additional physical and mental disorders. “To be a shift worker is not a good thing [for the body to undergo regularly], yet our modern society is increasingly dependent on shift workers,” Dr. Gozal said. “If you look how things were two centuries ago, shift work was virtually non-existent,” he added. Dr. Gozal’s research on exosomes is a crucial step toward making sense of the misalignment process.
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