Sleep is an important part of our biological cycle and disruption to a good night’s sleep, especially after working in night shifts, may affect women’s brains more than men’s, say researchers.
The findings showed that the circadian effects — the 24-hour biological cycle — on brain performance was significantly stronger in women than in men such that women were more cognitively impaired after the end of doing night shifts.
“We show for the first time that challenging the circadian clock affects the performance of men and women differently. Our research findings are significant in view of shift work-related cognitive deficits and changes in mood,” said one of the researchers Nayantara Santhi from University of Surrey.
The desynchronised sleep-wake cycle from the brain’s 24-hour clock lead to impairment in mental skills such as attention, motor control and working memory.
The team compared the brain functions of 16 male and 18 female participants who were kept on 28-hour a day cycle in a controlled environment without natural light dark cycles. This effectively desynchronised the sleep-wake cycle from the brain’s 24-hour (circadian) clock, similar to jet lag or a shiftwork scenario.
The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, raises significant implications for female nightshift workers such as nurses, security guards and police officers.