Working Nights

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

One More Reason to Eat a Balanced Healthy Diet!

As though there aren’t enough reasons to eat a healthy balanced diet, researchers have come up with one more-Vitamin B6.  A study just published in the Journal of Nutrition shows a strong association between chronic inflammation and Vitamin B6; those people with the highest levels of B6 in their blood had the lowest levels of chronic inflammation and those with the lowest levels of B6 had the highest levels of chronic inflammation.

Normally, temporary inflammation,  such as redness or swelling after an injury, is part of a healthy immune system. However, chronic inflammation is a much different and serious story. It occurs when the immune system does not shut off, which causes immune cells to interfere with the body’s healthy tissues. This can cause heart disease, diabetes and stroke, among other chronic diseases. Some of these are conditions that shift workers already have at a higher rate than day workers.  Even scarier, most people don’t know they have chronic inflammation since there is not a reliable blood test to screen for it.

The findings from this study give researchers a better idea of what is going on in the body regarding this inflammation. Other studies are now being conducted to determine the exact role of Vitamin B6; at this time experts are not recommending supplements. However, they do recommend including foods in your diet that contain B6 as there are numerous other benefits of this vitamin. B6 is present in chicken breasts, fish, hamburger, legumes, pinto beans and vegetables like red peppers and potatoes. Shift workers should try to include these foods in their daily diet. They are all foods which provide numerous health benefits. Enjoy!

Posted 7 years, 2 months ago at 11:54 am.

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Testing Your Sleepiness

Do you really know when you are sleep? 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 7 years, 7 months ago at 11:25 am.

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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.
Read this article…

Posted 8 years ago at 8:16 pm.

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It’s Time to Think about Seasonal Affective Disorder Again

Now that it’s December 1st, and we’ve adjusted our clocks, some of us will find their circadian clock more out of order than others. Seasonal affective disorder strikes this time of year. We’ve written on this in the past. See our earlier post which highlights a Wall Street Journal article written by health editor, Melinda Beck.

For a newer article, read Seasonal Affective Disorder: How to Beat ‘Winter’ Depression.

Posted 8 years, 9 months ago at 9:19 pm.

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Imagine a Hamster with Jet Lag?

Researchers come up with all kinds of crazy studiesal, all in the spirit of solving complex medical and scientific challenges that expand our knowledge and can potentially lead to curing disease. Sometimes however, all the research in the world seems to only take us back to what we already know. A recent study by psychologists at University of California Berkley found that performance on learning and memory tasks are compromised by jet lag. The impact of jet lag has been closely correlated with the consequences of working shifts in research on the body’s circadian rhythms. But, learning and and memory problems can be avoided…..

Read this article…

Posted 8 years, 9 months ago at 10:00 am.

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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  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 9 years ago at 11:54 am.

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2010 Sleep in America Poll Released!

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 9 years, 6 months ago at 11:09 am.

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Working Nights President, Betsy Connolly, to Chat with Nurses on – Join us Tomorrow at 6 pm est.

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  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: – click here for the link and to become a member.

Posted 9 years, 6 months ago at 4:13 pm.

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WSJ Covers Heart Risk at Work and Seasonal Affective Disorder

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 9 years, 9 months ago at 10:27 am.

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