How daytime eating benefits the mental health of shift workers

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Researchers recently investigated the effects of meal timing on mood vulnerability in night shift workers. They found that daytime eating only, as opposed to daytime and nighttime eating, could significantly improve mood among night workers.

However, they note that further studies are still needed to confirm their results. Shift workers often experience misalignment between their 24-hour body clock — known as the circadian clock — and daily environmental and behavioral cycles due to irregular work hours.

Studies show that circadian misalignment has a negative impact on moodTrusted Source and sleepTrusted Source. Other research shows that shift workers have a 25–40%Trusted Source higher risk of depression and anxiety than non-shift workers.

Previous research from 2019Trusted Source shows that shift work is also associated with a higher risk of metabolic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes. But evidence is emergingTrusted Source that daytime eating — even with irregular sleeping hours — could help maintain circadian alignment and prevent glucose intolerance during night work.

More research into evidence-based circadian interventions is crucial for improving the mental health of at-risk populations.

Recently, researchers conducted a randomized clinical trial (RCT) to see how daytime eating affects mood among those who worked in a simulated shift-work environment.

They found that while participants who ate during the day experienced no shifts in mood, those who ate at night experienced increased depression-like and anxiety-like moods.

“This study shows that changing meal timing can provide clear and measurable effects on mood under shift work conditions,” Stuart Peirson, Ph.D., professor of circadian neuroscience at the University of Oxford, not involved in the study, told MNT.

“As the authors note, this study used simulated shift work schedules under laboratory conditions. It remains to be tested whether night shift workers will benefit,” he added.

The researchers published their findings in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

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