Graveyard Shift Associated With Teen MS Risk

Multiple sclerosis and working odd hours debated

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The overnight shift might seem like an easy way to make money, but a new study warns that disrupting your sleep cycle as a teen can increase your risk of developing multiple sclerosis.

A Swedish study provided the first look at the connection between shift work and multiple sclerosis (MS). The researchers found that those who worked overnight hours for three or more years before the age of 20 were twice as likely to develop MS as those who never worked at night.

"Teens should not allow work to interfere with their sleep."

That's not to say that half of teens who work a late shift end up suffering from MS. But the study did find that more teens who worked overnight developed MS, compared to teens who did not. Shift work might be considered an environmental risk factor for MS.

Environmental factors are known to play a role in the development of MS. Other studies have demonstrated connections between MS and distance from the equator, as well as infections related to other diseases, for example. Now, this study suggests a significant link between MS and the disruption of sleep cycles, or circadian rhythms.

Working the night shift has already been connected to health problems such as heart disease and cancer. Sleep disruption is known to influence the immune system, and MS is an autoimmune disease. However, the study authors say that more research is needed before the link can be fully explained.

The data for the observational study came from two large scale population-based studies. Both showed a significant connection between shift work and MS. The duration of the shifts, as well as the intensity of the shifts – how frequently the individual worked nights – also influenced risk.

The study was published in the Annals of Neurology in October 2011.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 18, 2011
Last Updated:
October 18, 2011