Eating during the day may help shift workers mental health

Eating during the day may help shift workers mental health Tom&Jerry/HBO Max

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Why daytime eating is important for shift workers

Shift workers can often experience a misalignment with their circadian clock and daily environmental and behavioral cycles due to chaotic work hours.

Going through circadian misalignment harms mood and sleep. Some research shows shift workers have a 25-40% higher risk of developing depression and anxiety than non-shift workers.

However, current evidence shows that daytime eating could help maintain circadian alignment and prevent glucose intolerance during night work --even with irregular sleeping hours.

Stuart Peirson, Ph.D., professor of circadian neuroscience at the University of Oxford, not involved with the new study, spoke to Medical News Today about the research. "This study shows that changing meal timing can provide clear and measurable effects on mood under shift work conditions."

Peirson added caution, "As the authors note, this study used simulated shift work schedules under laboratory conditions. It remains to be tested whether night shift workers will benefit."

The full study is available here. Gregory Nawalanic, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the University of Kansas Health System, also not involved in the study, spoke to Medical News Today regarding circadian misalignment affecting depression and anxiety. "This dysregulation can produce disconnection from the outside world as an individual perhaps sleeps through commitments only to wake and experience increased depression/anxiety or self-loathing as a result. This fuels a vicious cycle that exacerbates their experience of depression or anxiety in terms of feeling hopeless or helpless about their situation."

The study could help therapists develop tools to help shift workers struggling with mental health by making dietary recommendations, meal plans, and scheduling when shift workers should eat.

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