Consequences of Disrupting Biological Rhythms

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  • Consequences of disrupting biological rhythms
    • Shift work and Shift lag
      • Decreased alertness
        • night-workers often experience a circadian trough of decreased alertness during their shift.
          • Occurs between midnight and 4:00 AM where the cortisol and temperature levels are at their lowest.
      • Sleep deprivation
        • Workers who have to sleep during the day have problems as there are interruptions and daylight reduces sleep quality.
        • Sleep during the day is 1-2 hours shorter than when we sleep at night.
      • Effects on health
        • Significant relationship between shift work and organ disease.
        • Research has found that individuals who have worked shifts for more than 15 years were 3x more likely to develop heart disease.
      • Shift work effects may not just be down to disruption of biological rhythms. There are other factors too.
        • One other factor is that shift workers experience social disruption. Solomon found that divorce rates were as high as 60% in shift workers.
          • This shows that it is difficult to maintain relationships and meet new people when working shifts.
      • Rotating shifts may cause problems to occur
        • Research has indicated that when an individual always works a night shift they will get used to the sleep-wake pattern, whereas having days off will cause a change in the sleeping pattern which will disrupt the biological rhythms.
          • This shows that a non-fluctuating shift would reduce the harmful effects of working shifts.
      • Melatonin has been put forward as a cure for shift lag.
        • This is because the natural hormone induces sleep. Psychologists reviewed 10 studies and found that if melatonin was taken near to bed-time is was effective,
          • However, if melatonin was taken at the wrong time of day it would delay adaptation.
    • Jet travel and Jet lag
      • Jet lag is the term used to to refer to the physiological effects of disrupted circadian rhythm.
      • Performance Decrement
        • The study of American major league baseball teams.
          • The west coast is three hours behind the east coast so when the east coast has to play the west coast, their body clocks go backwards and they experience phase delay.
            • When the west coast plays the east coast their body clocks go forwards causing phase advance.
            • Those that experienced phase delay won 44% more of their games.
      • Jet lag could be affected by other factors other than the disruption of biological rhythms.
        • For example, during a flight or car journey there may be annoying passengers and travelling itself can be tiring.
          • This  suggests that there could be other contributing factors other than the disruption of biological rhythms.


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