The busy lifestyle filled with hustle and bustle usually makes it seem as though the “happy life” is a myth. The everyday stressors of life make it difficult for many to maintain a proper work-life balance and in turn, are damaging to an individual’s physical and mental well-being. In such a situation, we seldom pay attention to what and when we eat as maintaining a strict diet plan feels nearly impossible. Having unstable meal timings may not be as harmful initially, however, in the long run, it can not only affect your physical health but also deplete your cognition and functioning along with overall productivity. The 30 percent of the total world workforce comprising nurses, security guards, firemen, and other workers who are required to deliver services based on night shifts pertaining to their 24×7 jobs suffer from mood disorders and this impacts their emotional health. Researchers have been working to devise newer strategies apart from melatonin and mild treatments in order to fix the internal clocks and improve the mental health of such individuals.
The real underlying problem due to which people working late night shifts might show symptoms of depression or restlessness is nothing but hormonal imbalance caused as a result of a disturbance in the biological clock of the body. We need to understand that how much ever we try we cannot actually manipulate the body’s internal physiological clock. Even after years of night duty, the internal body clock cannot adjust to the externalities. It only leads to a metabolic disruption which explains why those employed in night shift jobs are likely to have higher Body-Mass-Index (BMI) and Waist-to-Hip ratios compared to those in day-time shifts. Another spooky reason for disturbed mood states is imbalanced glycemic levels apart from the fact that depression and obesity go hand in hand.
Other problems due to disrupted meal timings:
1) Feeling anxious
2) Getting irritated easily
3) Experiencing more stress
4) Increased craving for sugar and carbs
5) Digestion issues
6) Developing eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia
7) Losing interest in eating
What studies have to say:
A recent study conducted by the Harvard Medical School investigators sheds light on how to meal timings affect mental health. The study included 19 participants of which 12 were males and 7 females. A trial was conducted at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston where participants were divided into two different groups, one constituting of those who were served meals both day and night time and the other group consisting of people who were served meals only during the day. The observations were far more striking than one could think of. It was seen that the first group receiving meals day and night displayed certain disruption in mood levels such as a 26 percent increase in depression rates and a 16 percent rise in restlessness whereas the second group did not undergo any mood change. Additionally, a relation with anxiety was also noted among those exposed to a simulated night work environment. Researchers believe that a shift in the biological clock over the 2-week period of the study caused significant mood changes in participants. Thus, the study highlights how nighttime meals could be detrimental to an individual’s mental health and research in the same field continues.
What can be inferred?
Meal timings have been emerging as an important aspect of nutrition which may have a major impact on physical as well as mental health. Blood sugar fluctuations and nutrient imbalances are often to be blamed more often than not as proper dietary practices prove to be a fuel for our mind and body to function efficiently. The changing glucose levels rise the possibility of experiencing diabetes, and high blood pressure levels too. Apart from mood and depression, the role of fixed meal timings on mental health is yet to be fully discovered. However, it is certain that maintaining a diet plan and adapting to healthy eating habits along with appropriate schedules can ensure of prevention, management, and development of mental health disorders.