Working Nights

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

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 1 month 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 3 months, 2 weeks 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 4 months, 1 week 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 5 months, 1 week 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 6 months, 2 weeks 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 7 months, 1 week ago at 10:07 am.

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The Impact of Daylight Saving Time

How are you feeling this week….even more tired than usual?  That may be due to Daylight Saving Time which occurred this past weekend. As we move the clocks forward, we lose an hour of that so very essential and precious sleep. On March 9 the Wall Street Journal published an article examining the side effects and repercussions of that lost hour (that loss has an even greater impact on shift workers!). To learn more, go to the Wall Street Journal……


Posted 8 months, 3 weeks ago at 11:39 am.

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Caffeine Update: Grab Another Cup of Coffee!

There is more good news for shift workers who rely on caffeine to keep alert while working their unique hours.  A panel of experts submitted an advisory report to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services. This report will help shape the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for America which are the official government dietary guidelines due out later this year. In it they advised that up to 5 cups (8 oz cup) of coffee or 400 milligrams of caffeine can be consumed daily without any detrimental effect. This is the first time that caffeine has been mentioned in the report which is submitted every five years.

The advisory committee noted that in addition to not being associated with health risks, there is evidence of health benefits such as reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. However, they warned that children and pregnant women should limit their caffeine intake and that caffeine should not be mixed with alcohol. Also, remember that caffeine can disturb your sleep, so drink that last cup at least 6 hours before going to bed.

Posted 9 months ago at 11:25 am.

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Take a breath and relax….

So begins an article by Sumathi Reddy published in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week. How many times have you been given or have you given that advice over the years? Did you know that behind that simple phrase is a complex series of psychological processes that calm the body, help control pain and slow the heart? According to doctors and psychologists, breathing and controlling your breath is one of the easiest ways to improve mental and physical health, without medication and equipment!

By training themselves to breathe more slowly and properly, shift workers may be able to achieve long term health benefits. Go to the Wall Street Journal to learn more…..

Posted 10 months ago at 11:54 am.

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The Benefits of Walking with Friends

How do you handle stress? Would you like to improve your emotional and mental health? The findings of a new large scale study conducted by the University of Michigan suggest that taking a walk, getting out in nature and being with friends are the ways to do that! Group nature walks are linked with significantly lower depression, less perceived stress and enhanced mental health and well-being.

Walking is economical, can be done at any time and so many are able to do it….why not give it a try?

Learn more about the study….

Posted 1 year, 2 months ago at 1:59 pm.

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Less Might Be More

Good news for shift workers! The Wall Street Journal is reporting that recent sleep studies have found that 7 hours is the optimal amount of sleep, not 8 as were recommended in the past. One study showed that cognitive performance increased as people got more sleep, reaching a peak at seven hours before starting to decline. Another found the lowest mortality and morbidity with 7 hours. Researchers are also reporting that too much sleep may be as harmful as too little sleep. The new sleep guidelines are expected to be issued in 2015.

Experts agree though that the optimal amount of sleep is what is right for each individual. Learn how you can determine what is right for you and learn more about the new sleep studies..


Posted 1 year, 4 months ago at 9:30 am.

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Drink That Coffee!

Last year Working Nights published a blog post, the Benefits of Coffee. It described the results of studies where scientists linked coffee drinking to a reduction in the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, prostate cancer, oral cancer, the most common skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma) and breast cancer recurrence, in addition to having a role in preventing dementia.

Now there is even more good news for coffee drinkers!  A new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistryreports that a daily cup or two of coffee may help prevent deteriorating eyesight and possible blindness from retinal degeneration due to glaucoma, aging and diabetes. Maybe there is a reason why coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world?

Read more about this study….

Posted 1 year, 6 months ago at 10:33 am.

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The Benefits of Green Tea

Green tea may prove to be the solution to a number of the health issues faced by many people, especially shift workers.  Thousands of studies over the last 20 years have described its benefits. Dr. Christopher Ochner, a research scientist in nutrition at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, says “Green tea is beyond a super food.”  This is because it contains an abundance of catechins which are antioxidants that fight and may even prevent cell damage.

Drinking green tea helps the heart and brain, keeps blood sugar stable (diabetes), reduces stress and can increase and even change your metabolism to aid in weight loss. Wow! To learn more and to read the entire article, go to WebMD

Posted 1 year, 9 months ago at 10:30 am.

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Reducing Injuries From Falls

Falls occur throughout the world at an amazing rate. According to the World Health Organization, falls are the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths worldwide. In the United States, the National Safety Council reports that falls are one of the leading causes of unintentional injuries in the United States.

The chances of falling, slipping and tripping increase with inattention, illness, fatigue, and haste. Shift workers need to be aware of this as studies show that the disruption of normal sleep patterns due to shift work can cause drowsiness or fatigue, which can lead to increased workplace injuries.

The costs resulting from these falls are significant for all involved.


However, there is some good news out there about how we can begin to cut fall injuries.


Researchers studying falls report that people who were taught to practice balance exercises each day had a 37 percent reduced risk of getting injured in a fall and a 61 percent lower risk of experiencing a broken bone from the fall, compared with those who didnt do the exercises. Those are startling findings! While the researchers cant fully explain why improved balance prevents injuries, they have theorized that those with a good sense of balance are aware milliseconds sooner that they are falling and use primordial instincts to make adjustments and reduce damage from the impact.

What do these balance exercises consist of? They are as simple as standing on one foot for a count of 10 to 20 seconds a few times a day(holding onto something if needed) or putting on your socks while standing (leaning against a wall or bed is fine). So simple, but what a difference they can make!


Posted 1 year, 9 months ago at 10:34 am.

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New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year! For many of us, this is often the time of year when, after having made New Year’s resolutions, we begin to slide and eventually, go back to our old undesirable ways. One proof of this is evident by gym statistics: memberships increase 12% in early January but most of those members stop going by March. Sixty-seven per cent of gym memberships are never used!

Why do we do this every year? We jump in with good intentions but do not seem able to sustain them; according to the University of Scranton Research, only 8% of people actually achieve their resolutions. A professor of neurology and the director of the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center, Dr. Alon Avidan, has an answer to that question and that answer is sleep or the lack of it. He says, “Improving sleep during the nighttime can really be very effective in improving quality of life in the daytime. Studies show that lack of sleep has an impact on weight gain and obesity, as well as memory, longevity and depression.

He suggests our primary New Year’s resolution should be getting more and better sleep; with our mind clearer and our body rested, our other resolutions will be more achievable.

Sleep, of course, is always in the forefront of shift worker’s minds. While getting enough quality sleep is difficult for day time workers, it is even harder for shift workers. A concerted effort has to be made to prepare a dark, quiet, tech-free environment for sleeping and then use it! By making sleep a priority, we can take the first step towards achieving our other goals.

Posted 1 year, 10 months ago at 11:40 am.

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