Working Nights

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

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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 2 months, 4 weeks ago.

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Wellness Programs and Social Media

Social media is proving to be an important tool for employers trying to encourage their employees to participate in Wellness Programs or to achieve weight/health goals. With much of the population looking at text messages, Facebook and Twitter each day, it appears to be the wave of the future.

The question at this point is how it should be used; many companies are coming up with ways it can be the most effective for their employees.  Chilton Hospital in New Jersey had tried for years to engage its employees in programs and initiatives aimed at promoting well-being and reducing health care costs. The resulting behavior changes were minor and covered only a small number of employees.  Then in 2011, Chilton tried a new approach; they entered a county-wide 100 day fitness challenge where employees from local companies formed teams of 6 and vied to see who could walk the most, lose the most weight and eat the healthiest. Participants logged onto a Facebook-like social network where they reported results and cheered each other on. As an incentive to participate, Chilton did offer a cash reward of $150 each to members of the winning team and $500 to the person who lost the most weight. Ultimately though, money was not the driving force; it was the challenge and online camaraderie that pulled people in.

Another company, incentalHEALTH, surveyed the participants in its own Wellness Program about their use of social media. It found that 90% of them were on Facebook and 81% texted daily. With this information, the company created a model which delivers wellness information via daily coaching texts and a Brag to Facebook feature. Other features being considered are online wellness journals, discussion groups and progress reports that can be shared with others.

There is an ever growing list of services and apps now available (with more and more coming out each day) for those companies interested in promoting wellness through social media. What better way to get people involved and to change unhealthy behaviors than by employing a media that is an integral part of so many their lives?

 

Posted 2 years, 4 months ago.

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New Information about Sleep and Shift Work

We’ve written extensively about the challenges many shift workers face as a result of not getting enough sleep. A few new studies provide more insight for those with sleep challenges. Continue Reading…

Posted 2 years, 10 months ago.

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Seratonin Levels Feed Anger

Many studies have shown that low levels of serotonin are also associated with anger, depression and anxiety. Fluctuations of serotonin levels in the brain, which often occur when someone hasn’t eaten or is feeling stressed, affect brain regions that enable people to regulate anger. So when stressed or hungry, people are often unable to manage their anger. This is especially relevant to shift workers as the stress of working outside regular daytime hours is significant and good eating habits of shift workers are often lacking (self-reported). A new study published September 15, 2011 in the journal Biological Psychiatry has shown that individuals who might be predisposed to aggression were the most sensitive to changes in serotonin depletion.


Do you Learn from your Mistakes?

People who think they will learn from their mistakes have a different brain reaction to mistakes than people who think intelligence is fixed. Jason S. Moser, of Michigan State University, who collaborated on a new study, found that people who think intelligence is malleable say things like, “When the going gets tough, I put in more effort” or “If I make a mistake, I try to learn and figure it out.” On the other hand, people who think that they can’t get smarter will not take opportunities to learn from their mistakes. People who think they can learn from their mistakes did better after making a mistake; they successfully bounced back after an error. Their brains also reacted differently, producing a bigger second signal, the one that says “I see that I’ve made a mistake, so I should pay more attention” Moser says.


Dealing with People on a Power Trip?

Individuals in roles that possess power but lack status have a tendency to engage in activities that demean others. The experiment demonstrated that “individuals in high-power/low-status roles chose more demeaning activities for their partners than did those in any other combination of power and status roles.” It feels bad to be in a low status position and the power that goes with that role gives these workers a way to take action on those negative feelings.
©2011 Circadian Age, Inc. ‘Working Nights’

Posted 3 years ago.

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New Research Shift Workers Should Be Aware of…….

Read on if you are interested in identifying whether you might have heart disease, learn about a possible new way to treat sleep apnea, or hear more about sleep disorders…….
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Posted 3 years ago.

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Preventing Cardiovascular Events

Cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death in the United States and other developed countries. Cardiac events are more common in winter, at the beginning of each month, on Mondays (in working people), and during the early morning hours of each day. Between 6 a.m. and noon, there is a 40% higher risk of heart attack, a 29% increased risk of cardiac death, and a 49% increased risk of stroke (if these events were evenly distributed throughout the day).

Several studies have reported a higher prevalence of coronary risk factors among rotating shift workers, including increased cigarette consumption, higher blood pressure, and increased cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Each of these risk factors can be controlled with lifestyle adjustments.
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Posted 3 years, 1 month ago.

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Is Time Alone Good for You?

Our contact with shift workers indicates that they tend to spend a lot of time alone. The schedules shift workers are on are often not conducive to a lot of togetherness with family and friends. We often write about the need for shift workers to stay in touch and find time for recreation with others. Recently there have been several studies about the importance of time spent alone. Solitude has been linked with creativity, spirituality, and intellectual insight for decades. Now studies are showing that we remember things better when we are alone. Taking time for self-reflection is a good thing; being surrounded by others can hamper a person’s efforts to figure out what he or she really thinks of something. Perhaps shift workers’ time alone allows them time to know themselves more truly than other do.
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Posted 3 years, 7 months ago.

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Sleep Critical to Memory Retention

We’ve reported on this in the past……however more information is available. According to a new study in the Feb. 2 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, during sleep the brain preferentially retains the memories that are most relevant. Researchers set up two experiments to test memory retrieval. In the first experiment, people were asked to learn 40 pairs of words and in the second, participants played a card game where they matched pictures of animals and objects. In both groups, half the volunteers were told that they would be tested in 10 hours. However, all participants were tested later on how well they recalled their tasks.

It turned out that the people who slept and knew a test was coming had substantially improved memory recall. Sleep was critical to memory enhancement. There was an increase in brain activity during deep or “slow wave” sleep in those volunteers knew they would be tested for memory recall.

This should interest managers caring that employees retain on the job and other training. Safety, human resource, and facility managers might consider fatigue management training to ensure employees are fully aware of the benefits of sleep for themselves and the workplace.

The researchers think that the brain’s prefrontal cortex focuses on memories viewed as relevant while awake and the hippocampus consolidates these memories during sleep.

This is another study that points to the importance sleep to memory retention – something shift workers and their managers should really care about.

Posted 3 years, 8 months ago.

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Want Happy Memories this Holiday Season? Consider Scrimping on Sleep!

Sleep plays a crucial role in the development of memories….but lack of sleep may actually help you put your bad experiences aside!

Researchers showed healthy volunteers video clips of both safe driving and unexpected motor vehicle accidents. After viewing the clips, half of the volunteers were deprived of sleep while the other half received a normal night’s sleep. Sleep deprivation eliminated the fear-associated memories. The researchers suggest this may be due to the lack of memory consolidation that typically occurs during sleep.

So, if you’re not looking forward to unsettling holiday parties, stressful family events, too much overtime work, or dealing with the loss of a loved one – take it easy. But don’t be too focused on getting extra sleep. A little sleep deprivation may be a good thing. Just make sure you’re rested enough that you’re ready for what you need to do,  whether work or play!

Happy Holidays from WorkingNights.

©2010 Circadian Age, Inc. ˜Working Nights”

Posted 3 years, 10 months ago.

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Strategic Implications of Keeping Workers Safe from Harm – The Impact of Bullying at Work

Recently, the topic of bullying has hit the headlines in a big way. Painful stories of persecuted, harassed, and tormented high school and college students who have committed suicide, have shocked educators, parents, students, and the public-at-large. The emotional, verbal, and physical abuse that constitutes bullying is not anything new. But recent attention to adolescents’ cyber-bullying (e.g. harassing others using Facebook, Twitter, or Utube or by cell phone or e-mail) has taken concerns about protecting victims to a new level.

Last month the federal government told educators that civil rights laws obligated schools to prevent bullying. The ‘Dear Colleague’ letter sent by the Department of Education to school administrators puts into clear words the fact that educators have a legal obligation to protect students from student-on-student racial and national origin harassment, sexual and gender-based harassment, and disability harassment. As a result, school districts and colleges around the country are cracking down on those students who terrorize and intimidate others who are supposed to be their peers. Society and workplaces change over time (Pynes 2009). Will the recent attention to student bullying have strategic management implications for the workplace? Clearly it will for schools. But, what will be the impact be to other employers?

Continue Reading…

Posted 3 years, 11 months ago.

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Getting on the Right Team

So much of work these days is team based, requiring groups of diverse people to work together on complex or risky initiatives. Consider the challenges that shift working groups face like workers overseeing our nuclear power safety, emergency medical teams, miners working deep underground, shift workers on oil rigs around the world…How can work be any more complex or risky than in these environments?

A recent study co-authored by MIT, Carnegie Mellon University, and Union College researchers, and published Sept. 30, in the advance online issue of the journal Science, addresses the cognitive capabilities of a team, as opposed to the intelligence of individuals. The study found that collective intelligence among groups of people who cooperate well is linked to the number of women in the group. The researchers reported that groups whose members had higher levels of “social sensitivity” were more collectively intelligent. The teams containing more women demonstrated greater social sensitivity and in turn greater collective intelligence.

So what is meant by the term socially sensitive? In the case of this study, it meant discerning emotions from looking at peoples’ faces. For an excellent book that will help you to improve your ability to read peoples’ faces, look up Emotions Revealed by psychologist Paul Ekman. The book shows how the following emotions are revealed through facial expression (including photos!).
1. Grief, sadness
2. Anger
3. Surprise
4. Contentment, Enjoyment, sensory pleasures
5. Fear
6. Disgust, contempt

Interestingly, the average and maximum intelligence of individual group members did not significantly predict the performance of their groups overall. Having a lot of smart people in the group didn’t automatically cause the group to rise to the top. In the study, 699 people were placed in groups with two to five members. The groups worked together on tasks ranging from puzzles to negotiations, brainstorming, games and complex rule-based assignments. Only later, when analyzing the data, did the researchers notice that the number of women in a group seemed to predict higher functioning teams.

Obviously, many men are also socially sensitive. The study researchers stated that they believed that having group members with higher social sensitivity is better regardless of whether they are male or female. Perhaps it would be good to study the social sensitivity of shift workers. After adjusting for the impact of sleep deprivation, shift workers are probably a pretty socially sensitive group. After all, it takes a certain amount of social smarts to work 24/7 and stay safe and healthy and connected with family and friends. And, these jobs do require a heightened amount of teamwork for success.

©2010 Circadian Age, Inc. ˜Working Nightss’

Posted 4 years ago.

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A Primer of Sleep Disorders for Shift Workers

The fifth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) won’t be published by the American Psychiatric Association APA) for a few years (May 2013).  However, developing the roadmap of psychiatric diagnoses is a huge initiative as feedback is being sought from over 600 global experts.  The DSM provides the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health and other health professionals for diagnostic and research purposes.  In addition, insurance companies use the DSM diagnoses to determine which psychiatric conditions will be covered by health insurance.

Over the years since the last DSM was published (1994), new research has been published on many psychiatric conditions.  New research leads to new opinions on the identification and treatment of disorders. Sleep disorders, many of which often plague shift workers, have received a significant amount of attention in recent years and as a result, the current draft of the DSM-5 includes information that shift workers and their employers should be aware of.  The recommendations for revisions to the DSM are posted on the APA’s web site for the manual  www.DSM5.org.  Public review and written comments are welcome. Comments will be reviewed and considered by the DSM-5Work Groups.

The sleep disorder work group is recommending greater inclusion of sleep disorders. This is being proposed primarily as a way to educate non-expert sleep clinicians (such as psychiatrists and general medical physicians) about sleep disorders that have mental as well as medical/neurological aspects.

Among the changes being recommended the significant ones impacting shift workers include:

1.  Adding obstructive sleep apnea hypopnea syndrome to the DSM-5: this disorder was previously contained under the sleep disordered breathing category.  Obstructive sleep apnea is associated with snoring, obesity, increased waist girth, and male gender. Central sleep apnea is most strongly associated with advanced age, heart failure, and diabetes.  Cardiac problems associated with obstructive and central apnea are different.

  • Obstructive sleep apnea is associated with ventricular ectopy which is often experienced as a strong or skipped heart beat resulting from abnormal electrical activation originating in the ventricles (heart’s lower chambers) before a normal heartbeat would occur Studies have indicated that sleep apnea promotes ventricular ectopy.
  •  Central sleep apnea is more strongly associated with atrial fibrillation. During atrial fibrillation, the heart’s two upper chambers (the atria) quiver instead of beating effectively. Blood isn’t pumped completely out of the chambers, so it may pool and clot. If a piece of a blood clot in the atria leaves the heart and becomes lodged in an artery in the brain, a stroke results. About 15 percent of strokes occur in people with atrial fibrillation.

People with coronary artery disease whose blood oxygen is lowered by sleep disordered breathing may be at risk of ventricular arrhythmias and nocturnal sudden death. CPAP treatment may reduce this risk. Sleep disordered breathing, including apnea, may cause coronary artery disease and hypertension.

2.  Adding primary central sleep apnea to the DSM-5.  See 1. above. Point is to separate obstructive and central sleep apnea as the risk factors and outcomes for each are different.

3.  Adding restless leg syndrome to the DSM-5.  According to the DSM web site the rationale is that RLS is a sufficiently common syndrome to merit elevation to an independent category. In national and international studies the prevalence of RLS appears to be between 7-10% of the population, depending upon age and gender.

4.  Including circadian rhythm, delayed sleep phase, advanced sleep phase, irregular sleep wake rhythm and free-running sleep disorders in the DSM-5 as separate subtypes.  The rationale for this proposed change is based on new data indicating not only the differences in clinical characteristics, but also the underlying pathophysiology and in some cases, genetic basis for the different types of circadian rhythm sleep disorders.

To read more about other primary sleep disorders, follow the links below:

Primary Sleep Disorders

307.42 Primary Insomnia307.44 Primary Hypersomnia 347.00 Narcolepsy 327.3x Circadiam Rhythm Sleep Disorder 307.47 Nightmare Disorder

©2010 Circadian Age, Inc. ˜Working Nights”

Posted 4 years, 1 month ago.

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Employee Health and Shift Work Lifestyle Training Leads to a Happier and Healthier Workforce….and to Increased Company Profits!

Is employee morale low at your company? Employee morale is higher when companies provide shift work lifestyle training.  Nearly 60% of employees at companies providing shift work lifestyle training rank their morale as good or excellent compared 35% without shift work training.[i]

Some shift workers are at a greater risk for cardiovascular disease.  Want to save upwards of $6,500 for each of these at-risk employees per year? And, protect your employees from this number one killer!

Workers in shift work operations generate, on average, more health care costs than other workers.  How about reducing overall company health care costs by 17% to 37% by targeting this population and helping them improve their health?[ii] Other cost savings may also be possible, including safety incident and workers’ compensation costs. Worker productivity may increase, possibly even up by 39%.[iii]

In extended 24-hour operations, a well-designed shift schedule or roster is unlikely to provide adequate protection from worker fatigue.  An integrated risk management system incorporates data analysis and training towards an effort of reducing fatigue and reducing a company’s costs, risks, and liabilities.[iv]

Among the shift worker population, 71% of men and 53% of women are overweight, 54% of workers have smoked or currently smoke, only 27.5% workers report having good nutritional practices, and 77% report not exercising regularly. Add to this the sleep deprivation statistics, 27% of shift workers report making mistakes of inattention several times per month, and it’s clear that both shift workers and their employers would benefit from worker health and lifestyle training.[v]  In addition, a fatigue management program would help target the reasons shift workers aren’t always as attentive and productive as day-time workers and help companies and employees develop some initiatives to reduce employee fatigue levels.

Each of the examples above show the overwhelming benefits to a company and its employees when an employee health and shift work lifestyle training program tailored to the company’s needs is implemented……..It’s all in the details, so read on for more information about targeting a program for your operation….. Continue Reading…

Posted 4 years, 4 months ago.

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Next Time Don’t Complain, Tell a Joke Instead!

Almost all serial killers are men. That’s ’cause women like to kill one man slowly over many, many years. (Robert Duchaine)

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Men who consistently leave the toilet seat up secretly want women to get up to go the bathroom in the middle of the night and fall in.  (Rita Rudner)

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I found out why cats drink out of the toilet. My mother told me it’s because it’s cold in there. And I’m like: How did my mother know THAT?  (Wendy Liebman)Â

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Laughing puts us in a positive mood.  The physiological reaction to humor results in lower stress hormone levels, increased immune activity, and lower cholesterol and blood pressure.  Repetitive laughing has similar effects on the body as moderate exercise, according to a study from Loma Linda University’s Schools of Allied Health and Medicine.

 

Laughter is good for preventing heart disease.  People with heart disease were 40 percent less likely to laugh in a variety of situations when compared to people of the same age without heart disease.  In this study, researchers from University of Maryland School of Medicine surveyed 300 people. Half did not suffer from heart disease while half had either suffered a heart attack or undergone coronary artery bypass surgery. The survey questionnaires included multiple-choice questions to see how much or how little people laughed in certain situations, and to measure anger and hostility.  The most significant finding from the study was that people with heart disease responded less humorously to everyday life situations. They generally laughed less, even in positive situations, and they displayed more anger and hostility.

As adults, we laugh about 35 times an hour during conversations with either friends or strangers.* When we laugh, 15 facial muscles contract, stimulating the zygomatic major muscle, causing your upper lip to lift up. The respiratory system is impacted so that air intake occurs irregularly, making you gasp. In extreme circumstances, tear ducts are activated, so that while the mouth is opening and closing and the struggle for oxygen intake continues, the face becomes moist and often red or purple. We may giggle or laugh out loud.

While many of us may laugh at a joke during a good movie or television show, the truth is that most of us laugh as a result of human interaction.  Have less interaction with others?  You’re likely to laugh less…..and this brings us to shift workers.  When working nights and sleeping days, it can be difficult to find time to see other people.  But, it’s important to keep a social life. Laughter connects us with others. A good laugh reduces stress and tension and takes our focus away from negative feeling, such as anger and guilt.  It’s healthier to laugh with friends and co-workers about life’s frustrations, rather than complaining about them.  Laughter is contagious.

Most importantly, remember:

Never be afraid to laugh at yourself, after all, you could be missing out on the joke of the century.

-  Dame Edna

*Do Children Laugh Much More than Adults?  Rod A. Martin. Downloaded on May 13, 2010 from http://www.aath.org/articles/art_martin.html.

©Circadian Age, Inc.˜Working Nights”

Posted 4 years, 5 months ago.

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How Do You React to Stress?

Work can be hugely stressful. In fact, twenty-five percent of Americans say that their job is their greatest contributor to the angst in their lives.  And, clearly there are other stresses too.  Pressure, anxiety, and tension can result in headaches, sleep disturbances, difficulty concentrating, short tempers, upset stomachs, low morale, and general life dissatisfaction.  Shift workers can experience extra stress as a result of working variable hours, getting less sleep, having little access to family members and friends, leading to increased isolation and lack of support.

Stress can be reduced though, and here are some ideas to help. Continue Reading…

Posted 4 years, 6 months ago.

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