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A shift in support for night shift workers with type 2 diabetes

Project summary

People with type 2 diabetes who work night shifts can experience higher blood sugar levels than people who work more typical hours. Dr Rachel Gibson wants to shed light on why this is. She will examine the impact of shift working on lifestyle and blood sugar levels, and identify the challenges it poses. This could inform the development of more tailored support to improve the health of shift workers with type 2 diabetes.

Background to research

Working night shifts has been linked with a greater risk of type 2 diabetes and higher blood sugar levels in people living with the condition.

Our ‘body clock’ plays a role in controlling how our body handles glucose. But night shifts can disrupt this clock. Working at night also tends to change diet, eating patterns, and how active people are. All of this can make managing type 2 diabetes more challenging and means that standard diet and lifestyle advice isn’t always useful for shift workers living with the condition.

Research aims

Dr Gibson wants to understand more about the effects of night shift working, so that healthcare professionals can provide more tailored advice and support.

The research team will recruit 70 people who work night shifts in the NHS and have type 2 diabetes. The participants will be asked to record their diet, sleep patterns and physical activity over a 10-day period. During this time they’ll also wear a continuous glucose monitor. This will give the researchers an insight into how night working impacts on lifestyle and day-to-day variations in blood sugar levels.

Finally, Dr Gibson and her team will interview the participants to learn more about the specific challenges people with type 2 diabetes face when working night shifts.

They hope to use what they learn to develop an intervention that addresses the barriers they’ve found. For example, recommending how diet or meal times could be changed to improve blood sugar levels.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

This project could help researchers to develop tailored dietary and lifestyle support specifically for people with type 2 diabetes who do shift work. This could offer a way to help shift workers live well with their type 2 diabetes, reducing their risk of complications and improving their health.

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