Our body’s biological cycle demands a good night’s sleep, and any disruption caused to it, especially after working nights, might affects our brain functioning, more of women’s than men’s. Researchers from the University of Surrey in their findings state that the circadian effects – the 24-hour biological cycle – on brain operation was way too stronger in women than in men, and hence women were more cognitively impaired from doing night shifts at work. Researcher Nayantara Santhi stated that their team has shown for the first time how the effects of challenging the circadian clock affects the performance of men’s and women’s brain differently. This research is significant for the study of work-related cognitive deficits and shifts in mood.

night shift work

The phased out sleep-wake cycle from the brain’s 24-hour (circadian) clock led to a state of impairment in mental skills like attention span, motor control and even working memory. The team studies the brain functionalities of a total 34 participants – 16 male and 18 female – who were subjected to 28-hour a day cycle in a controlled environment without natural light dark cycles. This exercise was extremely effective in desynchronising the sleep-wake cycle from the 24-hour clock, somewhat close to a jet-lag or shift-work.

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and raises important implications for female night-shift workers such as nurses, security guards and police officers.