A stressed nurse

Shift workers with hypertension who typically work at night have a heightened risk of progressing to cardiometabolic multimorbidity (CMM), a new study finds. Poor sleep compounds the problem, researchers say.

CMM is defined as having two or more among the following: hypertension, diabetes and/or cardiovascular diseases. Investigators aimed to examine what might spur an escalation to cardiometabolic multimorbidity in shift workers who already had high blood pressure.

They found that shift workers who worked mostly at night had 16% greater odds of developing diabetes, heart disease or stroke. Risk was even more pronounced if the workers slept less than seven hours or more than eight, according to the findings published Monday in the Journal of the American Heart Association. And risk rose higher, to 19%, among those who worked more than 10 night shifts per month.

“It’s actually really difficult to get good sleep if you are a shift worker,” Girardin Jean-Louis, PhD, psychiatry and neurology at the University of Miami, told the American Stroke Association. “We can teach someone to completely become a night worker without comorbid conditions. But once you become habituated to that shift, you don’t want to go back to the day shift. That’s the problem. It’s the constant shifting.”

Future studies should examine cardiometabolic risks across demographic groups who are at increased risk for cardiovascular diseases, added Jean-Louis, who is the director of a sleep center, and was not involved in the study. These include Black adults, who have disproportionately high rates of high blood pressure.
Full findings were published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.