Discuss the consequences of disrupting biological rhythms (24 marks)
Biological rhythms are controlled by endogenous pacemakers, which are our internal biological clocks and these rhythms are also affected by exogenous zeitgebers, for example light, food and noise. The most common disruptions of our biological rhythms occur due to aeroplane travel, which results in jet lag, and also due to shift work, resulting in shift lag.
Shift work is a certain type of job that people have to work at night or other un-sociable hours, so that because they work at night they have to sleep during the day. This makes their sleep worse than it would be if they were to sleep at night as it goes against the natural biological rhythms as sleeping in the day will be interrupted by exogenous zeitgebers like light and everyday noises like road works or traffic.
One of the effects of shift lag has been found to decrease alertness. When people work shifts their level of alertness seems to dramatically decrease, this is also known as the ‘circadian trough’ normally around 12.00 and 4.00, when this happens the person’s body temperature gets lower. Some evidence of this comes from the 3 mile island nuclear power station disaster. This occurred at 4.00 am, within the ‘circadian trough’.
Another effect of shift work is that some people believe that it can cause organ disease, this depends on the amount of years that the person has been doing shift work for. One psychologist that supports this was Knutsson et al, as he found that the people who spent 15 years or more doing shift work had a dramatic increase of developing heart disease.
One of the main effects of shift work is obviously sleep deprivation. Many people believe that sleeping during the day is a lot less effective than sleeping during the night as there are way more disruptions. Tilley and Wilkinson completed a study on shift workers he found that on average the people sleep for 1-2 hours less than the people that have normal day...