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 1 month, 2 weeks ago at 11:34 am. Add a comment
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 2 months, 2 weeks ago at 12:25 pm. Add a comment
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 suffers’ 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 months, 1 week ago at 11:27 am. Add a comment
We all know that sleep deficit is a constant problem for many shift workers. And we also know that having a sleep debt impacts every faction of our lives. So…the debate continues…what is the best way to make up that sleep? A May 20th article in the Wall Street Journal discusses this issue and offers some suggestions.
What is best for you, your schedule and your sleep type? Should you sleep binge, sleep bank or nap? Click here to learn more…..
Posted 6 months, 2 weeks ago at 11:18 am. Add a comment
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 7 months ago at 8:38 am. Add a comment
Sleep! We have all had those times when we are in a hammock or rocking chair and, with it gently swaying, have quickly fallen asleep. It is that same rocking motion that puts our babies to sleep. Researchers have been studying just why the slow swinging makes us go to sleep faster.
A study conducted by the University of Geneva asked 12 adult males with no sleep issues to take 2 45 minute afternoon naps. One nap was on a stationary bed and one on a gently rocking bed (hammock-like). During the naps, their brain activity was monitored.
The results were significant:
• All feel asleep more quickly when rocking
• Most said the nap was more “pleasant” than usual
• Measured brain activity showed an increase in the areas of deeper more restful sleep and more continuous sleep
• All moved more quickly from Stage 1 to Stage 2 sleep which is where more than half of our sleep time is spent
These results are especially important to shift workers as it is very often difficult to fall asleep and to stay asleep. Researchers are now studying the effects of rocking over longer periods of sleep and on those who suffer from insomnia or other sleep issues.
Posted 1 year, 8 months ago at 9:49 am. Add a comment
Many of us are aware of the advantages of physical activity …..and we also know how hard it can be to fit it into our already busy days (and nights)! However, researchers are discovering even more reasons why we should get up and go!
How about a better night’s sleep? The current national guidelines for recommended physical activity are 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise. These guidelines were originally established to improve and maintain cardiovascular health. However, studies are showing that these guidelines have a spillover to other areas of health.
Brad Cardinal, an author of a study published recently in the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity, stated, “Increasingly, the scientific evidence is encouraging as regular physical activity may serve as a non-pharmaceutical alternative to improve sleep.” This is significant for shift workers as they regularly get less sleep than day workers, and often have difficulty falling asleep. The study shows a 65% improvement in sleep quality for those participants who were more active. Those people were also less sleepy during the day which means increased productivity on the job.
How about feeling more excited and enthusiastic? Researchers at Penn State asked study participants to daily record their physical activity (if greater than 15 minutes), their mental states and their sleep quantity and quality. They discovered that people who were physically active had more pleasant activated feelings. Also, on days when people were more physically active than usual, they reported feelings of excitement and enthusiasm.
So, while we might feel like we are too tired to exercise, if we take that first step, we are on our way. One day of exercise can lead to the next and to the next….let’s give it a try!
Posted 1 year, 9 months ago at 2:37 pm. Add a comment
Do you really know when you are sleepy…too sleepy to drive or perform an activity? This question is front and center as people are getting fewer hours of sleep each night than ever before. Studies show that consistently getting too little sleep poses long term health risks, but do a few nights of little sleep have any impact?
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal details the steps being taken by sleep researchers around the world to develop a test for sleepiness. They are trying to find ways to identify sleepiness in people before they are so impaired that accidents occur. We know that people who are sleepy have decreased attention, slower reaction times and problems learning and processing information. Many people often don’t know how sleepy they are until it is too late. This is especially significant for shift workers who generally get less sleep than day workers.
Some interesting information noted in the article are the results of a 1997 study published in the journal Nature which showed that being awake for 24 hours resulted in the equivalent level of cognitive impairment as having a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.1%. In the U.S., it is illegal for adults to drive with a concentration of .08% or above.
The WSJ reports that researchers are looking for a biomarker, a characteristic or substance, in the body that will indicate if someone is sleepy and if they are, just how sleepy. While actual biological tests are years away, great strides are being made.
Other ways of identifying sleepiness are also being pursued. A professor of applied physics in Finland, Edward Haeggstrom, has noted that balance is impacted by sleepiness; “the longer you have been awake, the more you sway”. Additional research notes the link between sleepiness and eye blinks; the sleepier you are, the slower your eyelids close.
While we know the importance and value of sleep, this research provides the hope that this new information and knowledge can be used in our daily lives as part of our health care regimen, helping us to lead healthier and safer lives.
Posted 1 year, 10 months ago at 11:25 am. Add a comment
All around the world people are celebrating the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners trapped underground for ten long weeks. And, at Working Nights we’re celebrating too! Like everyone else, we’re ecstatic that the trapped miners were brought to safety. But we’re also celebrating from a shift worker perspective! This is a story about the good that happens when shift workers join together to help other shift workers. This tale is a collaboration of shift workers – from all walks of life – miners, government workers from multiple countries, small business men from the U.S. and Chile, and others.
In this case, employees from Layne Christianson Co., whose largest business is drilling water wells, and Geotec Boyles, SA, Lane Christianson’s partner in Chile, worked round-the-clock for 33 days to save the trapped miners. The miners were buried nearly 2,300 feet underground after a cave-in. The Layne/Geotec workers drilled a 2,300-foot tunnel that was 28 inches in diameter; it was large enough for the 26-inch rescue capsule to fit through. Others were working 24/7 as well. NASA designers worked with the Chilean Navy to design the 13 foot long, 925 pound rescue capsule which the Chilean’s named Phoenix.
Achieving success took whole-hearted co-operation among all parties involved, starting with the miners themselves. These 33 men lived on rations normally meant to sustain them for no more than two or three days. Under the extraordinary leadership of their foreman, the men shared what little they had. They shared the conviction that each man’s survival depended on all of the others down there surviving too. The miners’ only contact with the outside world was through tiny drill holes used to send down food, water, medicine and games.
Agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, and mining workers have historically worked long hours in difficult conditions. But 33 days straight takes the cake! Hopefully all shift workers that participated in this rescue, and all people working shift work will celebrate this great accomplishment.
©Circadian Age, Inc. ‘Working Nights’
Posted 3 years, 1 month ago at 1:49 pm. Add a comment
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 people’s faces. For an excellent book that will help you to improve your ability to read people’s 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
4. Contentment, Enjoyment, sensory pleasures
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 Nights’
Posted 3 years, 2 months ago at 6:18 pm. Add a comment
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) has just released the 1st poll to examine sleep among four ethnic groups in the United States: Asians, Blacks/African Americans, Hispanics and Whites-the 2010 Sleep in America Poll. Although significant differences in the sleep habits and attitudes of each group are revealed, there are also a number of interesting similarities. The poll found that more than three fourths of respondents from each ethnic group agree that poor sleep is associated with health problems. It also showed that each group reports similar experiences missing work or family functions because of fatigue. This is of extreme significance to shift workers who routinely average less sleep than day workers.
The NSF is committed to understanding people’s sleep needs and giving them the tools necessary to get the optimum amount of rest. Read more about the poll and its findings at the NSF’s website…
Posted 3 years, 9 months ago at 11:09 am. Add a comment
Nurses are used to working shifts - nursing was one of the first professions to require that work schedules be matched to the needs of patients. Medical complexities, expanded services, and consumer demand for all types of health care around the clock has meant that more nurses are working shift work now than ever.
Betsy Connolly, President of Working Nights is going to be chatting on-line with nurse members of NurseTogether.com. Topics will include a review of circadian rhythms as well as practical tips for managing work/life balance when working shifts, particularly roating ones.
When: Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 6 pm est.
Where: NurseTogether.com – click here for the link and to become a member.
Posted 3 years, 9 months ago at 4:13 pm. Add a comment
There were two articles in the Wall Street Journal today that are significant to shift workers. One story is about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and the other’s about a new study reporting that men who didn’t confront colleagues or bosses who treated them unfairly doubled their risk of heart attack.
Seasonal Affective Disorder – the article states that SAD “affects an estimated 6% of Americans, causing depression, lethargy, irritability and a desire to avoid social situations. It can also create an urge to overeat, particularly carbohydrates. As many as 15% of people in the U.S. may have a milder version that includes only some of these symptoms.” What the article leaves out, that all shift workers know, is that SAD symptoms are routinely felt by workers at jobs outside the normal day-time hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. See more about this in our articles on Vitamin D and Serotonin.
Reducing Heart Risk with Confrontation – the lead researcher from Stockholm University and her research partners asked 2,755 men how they typically responded to unfair treatment at work. Those who said they just let it pass and said/did nothing had significantly more heart attacks during the next ten years. After adjusting for age, socio-economic factors, risk behaviors, job strain, and biological risk factors, the risk of heart and death from a cardiovascular event was 2.3 times greater than it was for those who said they confronted those treating them unfairly. Read more about how shift workers can manage stress on the job and about controlling bullying at work.
To read the two Wall Street Journal articles:
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Reducing Heart Risk with Confrontation
©2009Circadian Age, Inc. ‘Working Nights”
Posted 4 years ago at 10:27 am. Add a comment