Intra- och transgenerationella hälsoeffekter av skiftarbete

Tidsperiod: 2016-01-01 till 2019-12-31

Projektledare: Christian Benedict

Finansiär: Vetenskapsrådet

Bidragstyp: Projektbidrag

Budget: 4 978 081 SEK

My research is mainly focused on understanding how sleep disruptions and night work, i.e. working during a time where the internal clock is set to be off, affect metabolic and psychological health parameters in humans. This involves a variety of approaches that include biochemical and behavioral assays. The importance of my research is derived from the fact that ~20% of employees in industrialized countries regularly perform shift work. As our society moves further toward a 24/7 culture, the proportion of shift workers is likely to increase. People who consistently work night shifts are forced to adapt to sleeping during daylight hours and being awake and alert during the night. The ability to sleep well during the day is a serious challenge for night shift workers as their internal clock encourages wakefulness during this period. Changing from one shift schedule to another each week can be disorienting in a similar way (i.e. day, evening, and night rotations), as sleep-wake routines are constantly shifting and the body cannot adjust quickly enough to the differing external time cues (e.g. sunlight, meals). Epidemiological studies have revealed that humans working either rotating or primarily night shifts are at increased risk for a variety of common diseases, e.g. type 2 diabetes and obesity. Studies from my group have further provided several mechanisms through which shift work may increase the risk of these complications. For instance, men who were kept awake during the night, as occurs in shift work, showed less cognitive control in relation to food stimuli, chose larger and more energy-dense portion sizes under both fasted and sated conditions, exhibited increased fasting blood concentrations of the hunger hormone ghrelin, had decreased postprandial serum levels of the satiety hormone glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), purchased more calories and grams of food in a mock supermarket scenario, exhibited a reduced morning energy expenditure, showed an increased hedonic brain response to food stimuli, had an impaired postprandial glucose tolerance, and exhibited increased secretory activity in endocrine stress axes. Against this background, in my new project I will carry out experiments to provide new perspectives on how the interaction of shift work with occupational (e.g. noise) or genetic (e.g. PERIOD3) factors determines the extent by which working against the biological rhythm impairs glucose tolerance and appetite control in humans. To this aim, a variety of approaches that include biochemical and phenotypic assays will be utilized. By building a longitudinal cohort, my research will also help decipher possible trans-generational effects of paternal and maternal shift work carried out before and during pregnancy on newborn’s health across childhood. The rising percentage of shift workers in our fast-paced 24/7 society underlines the importance of experimental and epidemiological research into how and to which extent shift work impairs health within and across generations. My fully-equipped sleep laboratories and their close vicinity to the facilities of the academic hospital at Uppsala University, as well as my long-standing experience in running clinical sleep studies will ensure high-quality execution of the proposed scientific project.