The circadian system has a role in regulating gastrointestinal physiology. Perturbation of this system is associated with gastrointestinal tract dysfunction. Shiftwork and poor sleep quality are associated with functional gastrointestinal disorders among many professional groups. This study compared bowel habits between trainee nurses with regular and irregular patterns of shiftwork. Male and female nursing students, enrolled on the first year (regular shifts; n=49) and the fourth year (irregular shifts, n=48) of a nursing degree course were surveyed. Questionnaires were used to assess functional diarrhea and constipation over a three month period. The prevalence of functional constipation among regular shift workers was lower than that found among irregular shift workers; 31.3% and 61.2%, respectively. There was no difference between the two groups in relation to the prevalence of diarrhea. This suggests an association between shiftwork and functional constipation, but not with functional diarrhea.
gastrointestinal dysfunction, constipation, diarrhea, shiftwork, circadian rhythm