Working Nights

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

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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 1 year, 4 months ago.

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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 1 year, 6 months ago.

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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 1 year, 11 months ago.

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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 2 years ago.

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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 2 years, 6 months ago.

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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 2 years, 8 months ago.

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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 2 years, 8 months ago.

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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 2 years, 9 months ago.

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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 3 years, 9 months ago.

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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 3 years, 10 months ago.

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Sleep Cleans Our Brains!

Sleep, that often elusive (especially for shift workers) yet essential part of all of our lives, is in the news again because of a new study published in the journal Science last week.

Scientists at the University of Rochester have discovered that sleep, in addition to boosting learning and memory retention and helping us feel more rested and alert, also gives our brains the opportunity to˜take out the trash”.  The trash is the toxic byproducts of activity during the daytime that need to be flushed out. The brain’s cleaning system goes into high gear when we are asleep by shrinking the cells in the brain allowing the cerebrospinal fluid to circulate throughout the brain tissue collecting the waste and sending it into the bloodstream. From there it is carried to the liver for detoxification.

Dr. Charles Czeisler, chief of the division of sleep medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, commented that the brain acts like a smart sanitation engineer; it’s easier to move the trash at night when the streets are clear. When we don’t get enough sleep or stay up all night, the toxins aren’t removed as efficiently as when we are sleeping. This explains why sleep deprivation has such strong and immediate consequences, such as mental fog and crankiness.

The results of this study are of great interest to Alzheimer’s researchers because one of the byproducts that is cleaned out daily is beta-amyloid, clumps of which form plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

If we didn’t already have enough reasons for trying to get enough sleep, this can certainly be added to our list!

Posted 4 years ago.

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Leave Your Stress at Work!

 

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that forthcoming research from the Academy of Management Journal will show that workers reported lower stress levels at the end of their work day/night after spending a few minutes jotting down positive events at the end of their shift, along with why those things made them feel good. Can that simple step really help?

The researchers conducting the study tracked workers over a 15 day period. They logged their blood pressure and stress symptoms such as headaches, fatigue and difficulty concentrating. The researchers then noted the changes when, at the end of their shift, the workers wrote down their accomplishments from that day. Positive thinking eased the tension. Theresa Glomb, a co-author of the report, says that the most significant impact comes from writing down why those things made them feel good. She says that act highlights the resources and support a person has in their work life such as skills, a good sense of humor, an encouraging family or a compassionate boss. And the reflections do not have to be work-related as about 40% of the end of day reflections had nothing to do with work but still made the participants calmer once they went home.

A key point is to not make this activity a mandatory requirement; that could result in creating additional stress instead of reducing it! Why not give it a try?

Posted 4 years, 1 month ago.

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Fun in the Sun

Ahhh ……the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer….. blue skies, hot sun! As we spend more time outside playing, exercising and working we must keep in mind how dangerous the heat can be if precautions are not taken.

Dehydration and heat exhaustion are two conditions that can occur in hot weather, often without us even realizing it. When dehydrated, our body is not able to produce enough sweat which is needed to reduce our internal body temperature and move the heat out. If sweat is not being made, our body’s core temperature rises which could result in heat exhaustion or heat stroke-two very serious conditions. Symptoms of dehydration may be dizziness, dry mouth, decreased sweating and dark urine.

Once our body is overheated, heat exhaustion can happen. We could experience fatigue, nausea, headache, vomiting and cold clammy skin with excessive sweating. If left untreated, this could lead to heat stroke which is considered to be a life threatening condition.

The good news is that these conditions can be prevented and we can enjoy being outside! Here are some guidelines to follow to ensure healthy and safe outdoor living:

  • Stay hydrated; drink every 20-30 minutes. If working or exercising excessively, try sports drinks.
  • Use sunscreen.
  • If possible, avoid the middle part of the day when the sun is the strongest.
  • Dress appropriately in light weight and light colored clothes; also, wear a hat.

 

Posted 4 years, 3 months ago.

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Is the Restless Legs Mystery Solved?

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a subject of concern to shift workers because it often disrupts their already limited hours of sleep. It is a disorder that causes a strong urge to move your legs, usually when you are sleeping or inactive, resulting in difficulty getting to sleep and maintaining sleep.

The good news is that researchers continue to study RLS in order to try to improve suffer’s sleep.  Studies have shown that RLS patients’ sleep is not significantly improved even when their involuntary leg movements are reduced by certain drugs; this has been a mystery to researchers. However, new findings by Johns Hopkins researchers, published in the May issue of the journal Neurology, show this mystery may have been solved. To learn more about these results, read the article in e! science news.

 

Posted 4 years, 3 months ago.

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A.D.H.D. or Sleep Deficit?

At this point, it appears we all know someone (if not yourself!) who has been diagnosed or has symptoms attributable to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or A.D.H.D. The classic symptoms of A.D.H.D. include procrastination, forgetfulness, the inability to pay attention consistently and the propensity to lose things. However, as a recent article published in the New York Times points out, there is an important diagnostic criterion: symptoms must date back to childhood.  Yet, in many patients, it has been shown they don’t.

Vatsal G. Thakkar, the article’s author, proposes that in a substantial number of cases, these symptoms may be a result of chronic sleep deficit! In today’s 24/7 society, we all get less sleep than we used to, especially shift workers. We at Working Nights often discuss the importance of sleep and what happens if we do not get enough. It has a tremendous negative impact on our health and wellbeing. Learn more about these sleep findings by reading the article in the New York Times.

Posted 4 years, 6 months ago.

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