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Night shift work may be dangerous to health

New Jersey employees who work different shifts may be interested in the results of a peer review of studies on the effects of shift work on health. The review, which was published in a peer-reviewed journal, studied shift work and its effects on sleep, chronic health conditions and workplace accidents.

Shift work can have an impact on sleep and circadian rhythm, especially if a shift is worked before 6 a.m. Workers who sleep during the day fall asleep faster and are less likely to wake up intermittently during a sleep cycle, but they usually sleep less than eight hours, which is considered short sleep and has been associated with some health problems. Workers who work evening shifts are more likely to sleep for eight hours and report less sleep disturbances. Shift work sleep disorder is estimated to affect up to 23 percent of shift workers, with new diagnoses usually being for those on the night shift.

Shift workers have also been found to have a greater risk of some health conditions including myocardial infarction, ischemic stroke, obesity and type II diabetes. Studies have also shown a possible link between night shift work and some types of cancer including breast cancer, prostate cancer and colorectal cancer. In addition, there is evidence that shift workers are at greater risk of workplace accidents and possibly at greater risk of an automobile accident when driving home after a late shift.

On-the-job injuries or illnesses caused by work conditions are usually covered under workers' compensation. When an accident happens at work it could be relatively easy to prove, as compared to establishing the nexus between a disease and a workplace environment. In the latter case, it might be even more advisable for a worker to have legal counsel if the employer disputes or denies the claim.

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