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Alertness | Working Nights

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 2 years, 8 months 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 2 years, 9 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 2 years, 10 months ago at 11:21 am.

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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 3 years ago at 10:23 am.

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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 3 years, 6 months ago at 3:38 pm.

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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 3 years, 10 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…..you may eventually be in that marathon!

Posted 3 years, 11 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 4 years ago at 9:37 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 4 years, 2 months 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 4 years, 2 months ago at 11:25 am.

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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 4 years, 10 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 5 years ago at 10:33 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 5 years, 3 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 5 years, 4 months ago at 11:40 am.

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Is There a Link between Sleep and Alzheimer’s Disease?

 

Last month we wrote about a new study that described how the brain cleans itself as we sleep by flushing out the toxins accumulated during our waking hours. We noted that 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 AD (Alzheimers Disease) patients.

Sleep patterns have previously been linked to beta-amyloid plaques. Researchers from The John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health have observed that those with AD spend more time awake and have more fragmented sleep patterns than those without the disease. They wanted to determine whether there was a link between beta-amyloid deposits and sleep within community-dwelling older adults.

The test group for their study consisted of 70 adults with an average age of 76; none of the participants had any form of dementia. They were asked to record their sleep patterns which included the duration of sleep and any trouble falling or staying asleep. Various brain imaging techniques were used to measure the beta-amyloid deposition in their brains.

The researchers report that the results of this study were consistent with those from animal research in which sleep deprivation increased interstitial fluid beta-amyloid levels. They note that this could have a tremendous impact on public health as AD is the most common form of dementia and almost half of older adults with the disorder report insomnia based symptoms. They say that “because late-life sleep disturbance can be treated, interventions to improve sleep or maintain healthy sleep among older adults may help prevent or slow AD to the extent that poor sleep promotes AD onset and progression.

The emotional, financial and logistical costs of AD are significant and will only increase as our population ages and more people are diagnosed. Further testing and research regarding sleep and its connection to AD continue to be conducted. The Cure Alzheimer’s Fund of Wellesley Hills, MA, dedicated to ending Alzheimer’s Disease, is currently funding a proposal on this subject.

Posted 5 years, 6 months ago at 2:46 pm.

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