Working Nights

A resource for improving the health and safety of shift workers since 1983

Drowsy Driving

A new report issued earlier this month by the Governors Highway Safety Association identifies drowsy driving as the factor in crashes that claimed 5,000 lives in 2015. It is estimated to cause 20 percent of all traffic deaths which increased by 8 percent last year. The annual cost of fatigue related accidents that cause injury or death is $109 billion, not including property damage!

Because nearly 84 million sleep deprived Americans are on the road each day, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) has expanded its definition of impaired driving to include drowsy driving, in addition to drunk, drugged and distracted driving. The drivers who are at greater risk of driving while tired are teens and young adults, shift workers and those with sleep disorders. Too little sleep causes drivers to react more slowly, resulting in injuries and death.

The report recommends Americans change their view of sleep; it should be considered an essential element of a healthy life, along with eating right and exercising.

Posted 1 month, 3 weeks ago at 9:59 am.

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Not Just For Kids!

Naps…they really are not just for kids! Dr. Damien Leger, a French sleep researcher, writes that napping should be considered a basic right, not a luxury or an activity to be hidden or derided. He stresses how important they are for those who work nights and/or for those who routinely sleep six or less hours per day, since studies have shown that chronic sleep deprivation is associated with diabetes, depression, cancer, obesity and even an increased risk of death.

Dr. Leger does note there are conditions for taking an effective and successful nap. He advises that it should be limited to 20 minutes (set your alarm!) as anything more might leave you with “sleep drunkenness”, rather than the rejuvenation which is sought. Also, find a safe place to sleep whether it is your desk (it is not necessary to lay down), car or an empty office or workspace.

Research has shown that naps or short periods of sleep increase cognitive performance, reaction time and mood, so take the time and try a nap; you may be thrilled with the results!


Posted 3 months ago at 9:12 am.

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Coffee Update

An influential of panel of experts gathered by the World Health Organization (WHO) have concluded that drinking coffee regularly could protect against two different types of cancer, uterine and liver, although it is not clear why. As recently as 1991, researchers described coffee as ‘possibly carcinogenic’ with links to some cancers. But since then a large body of research has portrayed coffee (for those who drink it regularly) as a surprising elixir, finding lower rates of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, neurological disorders and several cancers.

This is very good news since it is estimated that 64 percent of Americans drink at least one cup of coffee per day. Last year a panel of scientists working on the government’s 2015 dietary guidelines said there was “strong evidence” that three to five cups of coffee daily were not harmful and might reduce chronic disease.

A note of caution…the WHO’s cancer agency has announced that drinking extremely hot (150 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, really too hot to drink) coffee or tea may promote esophageal cancer, so do wait a few minutes before taking that first sip.

So go ahead and enjoy that cup or cups of coffee…..

Posted 3 months, 2 weeks ago at 11:21 am.

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Fighting Fatigue with Food

So many of us experience fatigue as we try to keep up with and balance our work and home lives; if ignored, it can become chronic and put us at an increased risk for disease. By eating the right foods (those that release energy more slowly, giving us more long-lasting energy), we can fight fatigue!

Here are some foods that can do the job:

  • Oatmeal (old-fashioned, steel-cut) and whole grain foods
  • Beans
  • Nuts and Seeds, especially chia seeds
  • Yogurt (Greek)
  • Spinach
  • Bananas
  • Eggs

Be creative; mix these foods with other foods in your diet or with each other: add nuts and seeds to your yogurt or spinach salad, include spinach in your omelet or on your sandwich instead of lettuce.

Do try to stay away from those foods containing sugar and caffeine:

  • Candy
  • Junk Food
  • Energy Drinks
  • White Bread

They may provide you with a quick burst of energy but that will be followed by a major slump.

Even more importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water!

Posted 4 months, 1 week ago at 1:16 pm.

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Help for Insomnia

Chronic insomnia is defined as at least three restless nights per week for at least three months. Have you been experiencing this? If yes, you are not alone!  The American College of Physicians (ACP) reports that 6-10 percent of people in the United States have insomnia; this percentage may be even greater among the shift work population.

Often figuring out what to do about it causes even more sleeplessness. A new report issued by the ACP suggests that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) might be worth a try. The physicians acknowledge that, while it may not have better results than sleep medications, it does have far fewer side effects.

Learn more about CBT and how it may work for you at the Huffington Post…..

Posted 5 months, 3 weeks ago at 10:23 am.

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March is National Nutrition Month

Welcome to National Nutrition Month! The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics created this annual campaign in 1973 to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. It began as a weeklong event and grew to a month in 1980 as interest in nutrition and healthy eating grew.

March is a good time of year to reexamine our eating habits, as many of us may have abandoned our original New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier and better. Some of the many suggestions that the Academy offers are to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, cut back on sugar, watch portion sizes and drink more water.

Knowledge is power…learn about the foods that are good for you and why, try them and choose the ones you like. Gradually incorporate them into your diet to make the changes necessary for a long and healthy life. Go to the Academy’s website to get started…..

Posted 7 months, 1 week ago at 10:16 am.

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New CDC Sleep Study


At Working Nights we often discuss the importance of sleep and the obstacles shift workers face in trying to get enough of it. Lack of sleep is not only a major issue for shift workers but for many adults (and unfortunately, a growing number of children) in the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that, according to a new sleep study, more than one third of adults in America are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis. This study is the first to document estimates of self-reported healthy sleep duration (identified as 7 hours or more) in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

To learn more about the study and about some steps you can take to increase the quantity and quality of your sleep, go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Posted 8 months ago at 9:46 am.

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The 7 Minute Workout

The new year often begins for many of us with gym memberships and mighty resolutions for getting and staying in shape. But as the days pass, those plans may get pushed aside as cold and dismal weather and numerous obligations and/or excuses get in the way. We know how important it is to keep active but it certainly is not easy.

Here is something that may help…the 7 Minute Workout! This short but effective workout does not require special equipment or a lot of time; the exercises are easy to learn and just might be the best way to get and stay in shape as we look forward to the warmer, longer days of spring. You can find this workout at WebMD……get started today!

Posted 8 months, 3 weeks ago at 3:02 pm.

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The Effects of Interrupted Sleep

Ask yourself how often you get a full uninterrupted night’s sleep… do you ever? If your answer is sometimes, rarely or never, you are not alone!

We now know that sleep impacts EVERY part of our mental, physical and emotional lives and that it is the number one ingredient for optimum health. Knowing that, we usually worry about the number of hours of sleep we get and do not as often consider the quality of those hours. A recent study suggests we should….read about the impact of disrupted sleep at (e) Science News.

Posted 10 months, 3 weeks ago at 1:44 pm.

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Sleep…the Key to Staying Healthy This Winter!

Sleep is a subject being studied by researchers more than ever as they continue to learn how it impacts every part of our mental, physical and emotional lives. Working Nights discusses it often since shift workers, due to their unique hours and the disruption of their circadian rhythms, get less sleep than the day working population.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) call insufficient sleep a public health epidemic. The National Sleep Foundation reported in their 2013 survey that one in five Americans get less than six hours of sleep on an average work night.

As we approach winter and cold and flu season, we need to try even harder to get more undisturbed quality sleep (we are turning the clocks back this Sunday, November 1st, so there is an extra hour!). Working Nights looked at the results of a new UC San Francisco study on the relationship between shortened sleep and catching a cold or virus. Those results show  that those who slept less than six hours a night were 4.2 times more likely to catch a cold; the odds increased for those who slept even less!

Learn more about the study and its results at (e)Science News.

Posted 12 months ago at 3:38 pm.

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Are You Sitting Too Much?

In recent years there have been numerous articles written about the physical toll of being sedentary. Excessive sitting is associated with 34 chronic diseases and conditions! Studies show that sitting too much has been linked to cardiovascular events like heart attack, heart disease death, overall death and death from cancer. It has also been associated with high blood pressure, obesity, bad cholesterol and too much belly fat.

Dr. David Alter, the senior scientist of a new study on sitting at the University Health Network (UHN) in Toronto said, “More than one-half of an average person’s days is spent being sedentary — sitting, watching television or working at a computer.” Studies have reported that people who sit for long periods were 24 percent more likely to die from health problems during the studies, which lasted between 1 and 16 years, compared to those who sat less.

And now the results of a new study in Australia indicate there is yet one more reason to get up from your chair….in addition to the physical impacts, there is evidence that there is a link between too much sitting and emotional stress; that is the more sedentary a person was, the more likely he or she was to feel anxious. Only nine studies have so far examined this link, so additional research is needed.

However, ultimately, the bottom line is sitting for a long period of time is bad for you, even if you are active and exercise regularly. Knowing this, make a point of getting up every hour or so….grab a drink, walk over to a co-worker’s desk, choose to stand more when you have a choice…it is worth it!

Posted 1 year, 2 months ago at 10:18 am.

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Sometimes the best things in life really are free…

…and in this case, also easily accessible and good for us. What could it be you ask? The answer is water, which is essential to keeping us alive since all the systems of our body require it to function properly, but which also has so many other benefits.

Simply by drinking water and staying hydrated, shift workers can lose weight, feel less stressed and get sick less, maintain optimum body temperature and regulate blood pressure. It almost seems too good to be true, but it is. Because the body is more than fifty percent water, even a slight reduction in hydration has a significant impact on all parts of it. Sipping on water during a stressful shift can ease tension, reduce the strain on your heart and increase your energy level which is especially needed when working shifts.

Studies show that people who drank two 8 ounce glasses of water before each meal lost weight, while the control group who did not drink before eating but had the same diet, did not. Water fills you up, resulting in eating less and drinking fewer high calorie beverages. Staying hydrated also keeps your mucus membranes moist; when they are dry, flu and virus germs can more easily enter your body.

The amount of water needed to stay properly hydrated is based on your age, health and weather conditions; it differs for everyone. Keep in mind that when you exercise in hot humid weather, you can become dehydrated within 30 minutes. Take regular breaks, wear appropriate clothes and drink water approximately every 20 minutes.

Try to make taking a water bottle with you part of your daily routine….maybe add some lemon or lime juice for some added flavor!

Posted 1 year, 3 months ago at 12:07 pm.

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No More Excuses!

Most of us know the importance of exercise, but still come up with excuses not to do any.  It may be too hot, too cold, too wet or too snowy. You may be too tired, too busy or too stressed. It is not easy to start an exercise regimen; it is even more difficult when working evenings or nights. Yet, the benefits of exercise so outweigh any excuse we may come up with that it is worth a second look and try.

This week WebMD details the 12 Rewards of Exercise. All of the benefits discussed can only make our lives better; how would you like to get a better night’s sleep, have more energy, be more productive and be less stressed? And these are only some of the rewards……

Keep in mind that you don’t have to start running marathons. Find an activity or exercise you are interested in and like; find the time to do it (there is always some time available) and go from there. Who knows… may eventually be in that marathon!

Posted 1 year, 4 months ago at 12:28 pm.

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The News Keeps Getting Better for Coffee Drinkers…..

…. many of whom are shift workers depending upon its caffeine to keep them alert and awake. As we mentioned in our blog a few months ago, a panel of experts submitted an advisory report about caffeine to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services indicating that, in addition to not being associated with health risks, there is evidence of health benefits.

An article published in the New York Times on May 11, 2015 further corroborates those findings. In it, Aaron E. Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, details the numerous studies which have been and continue to be conducted on coffee. Ultimately, he reports that the benefits of drinking coffee far outnumber the risks. Results show coffee drinkers have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancers, Parkinson’s, diabetes and cognitive decline. However, he does point out that he is talking about black coffee and not the milk and sugar beverages which are so popular now. The benefits of coffee could be negated by the consumption of the additional fats and carbohydrates in those drinks.

Read more about the benefits of coffee in the New York Times…….

Posted 1 year, 5 months ago at 9:37 am.

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Is Laughter the Best Medicine?

Last week on April 14th, International Moment of Laughter Day was celebrated. Never heard of it? It was created by Humorologist Izzy Gesell and its goal is to encourage people to laugh.

You may have heard the saying ‘Laughter is the best medicine’ and thought nothing of it. But in recent years, scientists have discovered it may be true! They report that when we laugh, the brain releases endorphins which help to relieve stress, reduce the sensation of pain and stimulate positive emotions. In addition, laughter increases oxygen to the organs, boosts circulation, helps you to relax and contributes to an overall sense of wellbeing.

One doctor says that laughing may provide the same benefits as a mild workout; as you laugh, move your arms …. your heart rate will increase.

Laughing certainly can’t hurt, so why not give it a try? Look for some ways to get yourself laughing: think of funny things you have seen or heard, buy a CD of your favorite comic and listen as you are driving, watch a funny movie or one of the YouTube videos of babies laughing (hard to resist!). There are many opportunities out there that may make you laugh, so let’s get started…’Have you heard the one about the horse who walked into a bar…..’

Posted 1 year, 6 months ago at 10:07 am.

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