Many people frequently work in night shifts due to job requirements. However, researchers warn that this could cause damage to the structure of their DNA.

Lack of proper sleep and night-time wakefulness can damage the DNA, leading to many diseases, including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular, neurological and pulmonary diseases, a study reveals. The report findings, published in the Anesthesia academic journal, indicates that people who are required to work overnight showed 30 per cent higher DNA breaks as compared with those who don’t. This DNA damage is further raised by over 25 per cent after a night of acute sleep deprivation.

During the study, the team examined a small group of healthy full-time doctors, average age between 28 and 33. The participants provided a sample of blood, after three days of adequate sleep. Doctors who worked the night shift then had additional blood sampled the morning after, following acute sleep deprivation. S. W. Choi, research associate at the University of Hong Kong, says, ‘The study demonstrates that disrupted sleep is associated with DNA damage.’

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Larger prospective studies looking at relationships between DNA damage and chronic disease development are warranted, and methods to relieve or repair DNA damage linked to sleep deprivation should be investigated, Choi suggests.