The biological pathway linking shiftwork and stress with heart disease
What are the neuroendocrine systems?
The neuroendocrine systems are a combination of body’s nervous system and endocrine system.
When the body feels stress, the nervous system immediately releases adrenaline and noradrenaline to increase heart rate and other cardiovascular responses to prepare for the perceived threat.
The endocrine system releases the hormone, cortisol, to prepare other target organs as an additional measure to be ready for any lingering threats.
In normal, healthy functioning, once the threat has passed, these systems turn themselves “off” and the body settles back into a relaxed state.
However, with chronic stress, these systems are constantly activated and are thought to damage blood vessels and even lead to heart disease
How does shiftwork influence the neuroendocrine systems?
Shiftwork can also be considered to a be a type of stress that affects the neuroendocrine systems. There are 3 main pathways that have been identified as linking shiftwork with heart diseas
1. Unhealthy behaviours – working at night can make it difficult to find time to eat properly or exercise regularl
2. Psychological/Social stressors – sleeping during times that most people may be awake, can be socially isolating and stressful
3. Physiological changes – some of the body’s functions, such as neuroendocrine hormone production, follows a 24 hour cycle of production and recovery. When people frequently change their sleeping patterns, as seen with those who work at night, it can affect these biological functions