Ageing would set in very early for sleep-deprived youth working continuously on night shifts in BPO firms, warn experts.
"Heavy food during night, skipping breakfast, eating lunch in the evening and all such irregular habits affect their health," says Dr Lim Li Ling, Deputy Director, sleep disorders unit, Singapore General Hospital.
Besides premature ageing, their overall performance would be affected due to lack of proper sleep, Ling, who is specialising in neurophysiology and was recently in Chennai in connection with a seminar, says.
"The performance of youths working in night shifts is affected. Since, they are sleep-deprived, their efficiency and alertness is less compared to those who sleep sufficiently. Their concentration is hindered due to lack of sleep".
Frequent headaches, fatigue and sleepiness are caused. Their reflexes diminish affecting work efficiency, she adds.
Though, they have become the envy of others with the fat salary they are pocketing, they are actually paying a "heavy price" by risking their health.
Echoeing her, Dr Prithakachari, a neurology specialist, says such youths have tendency to become unsociable.
"Youths working in BPOs lose their ablity to enjoy and become irritable and unsociable."
Dr N Ramakrishnan, Director, Nithra Institute of Sleep Sciences in Chennai, points out that sleep deprivation leads to accidents while driving vehicles.
Elaborating on the importance of night sleep, Prithakachari says: "nature has a rhythm of its own. There is a time for sleep, work and play. After invention of electric bulb, the natural rhythm of human activity called circadian rhythm had altered as people began working during nights".
"Now, we sleep less, play and work more than any other time in the history of mankind," she adds.
Explaining the sleep cycle, Ramakrishnan says "malatinin is one chemical which controls the cycle. The brain and body is more active when malatinin secretion is high. Its secretion is high during day time, when human beings should be awake and alert. Secretion of malatinin is low during night, inducing sleep."
Another factor was that our body temperature was high during day time and low at nights. Higher body temparature help one to be awake and lower body temperature was suitable for sleep than work, he adds.
When BPO employees accumulate sleep debt for several hours, it can lead serious problems like depression. When others are asleep, they are busy working and vice versa, leading to lesser contacts with friends and relatives. This isolation can cause severe psychological problems, warns Prithakachari.
"It is wrong to think that people who sacrifice sleep steal a march over others in life. Sufficient sleep at the proper time ensures success," Ling adds.