Working Nights

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

The Impact of Ageing on Sleep

It seems like every day we learn more about the importance of a full night of beneficial and restorative sleep; we understand that it impacts every portion of our lives and without it, we are vulnerable to a myriad of diseases and chronic conditions. Yet, for many of us and for many reasons, that type of sleep is so very difficult to come by.

Unfortunately, as we age it becomes even harder. Older adults face a reduction in the quantity and quality of deep sleep, the stage that beneficially overhauls our cardiovascular, immune and metabolic systems and refreshes learning and memory abilities. Beginning in our 30s, each decade represents a significant decline in the restorative deep sleep we experienced when young.

In addition, our sleep also becomes more fragmented; we wake up more during the night, perhaps because of a weakened bladder or aches and pains.

Scientists also have determined that the circadian rhythms (the body’s internal wake/sleep clock) of older people change, resulting in our bodies calling for earlier bedtimes and earlier risings which can disrupt our sleep cycles.

Ageing in general can cause a deterioration in our health, but we are learning that the deterioration of our sleep may be more in play than we previously thought. As we age, we should continue to pay attention to our sleep patterns and discuss them with our doctors. There are steps that can and should be taken to improve and maintain a better night’s sleep….learn about them

Posted 1 year, 9 months ago at 1:12 pm.

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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 3 years ago at 11:21 am.

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March is National Nutrition Month

Welcome to National Nutrition Month! The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics created this annual campaign in 1973 to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. It began as a weeklong event and grew to a month in 1980 as interest in nutrition and healthy eating grew.

March is a good time of year to reexamine our eating habits, as many of us may have abandoned our original New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier and better. Some of the many suggestions that the Academy offers are to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, cut back on sugar, watch portion sizes and drink more water.

Knowledge is power…learn about the foods that are good for you and why, try them and choose the ones you like. Gradually incorporate them into your diet to make the changes necessary for a long and healthy life. Go to the Academy’s website to get started…..

Posted 3 years, 4 months ago at 10:16 am.

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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 3 years, 7 months ago at 1:44 pm.

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Are You Sitting Too Much?

In recent years there have been numerous articles written about the physical toll of being sedentary. Excessive sitting is associated with 34 chronic diseases and conditions! Studies show that sitting too much has been linked to cardiovascular events like heart attack, heart disease death, overall death and death from cancer. It has also been associated with high blood pressure, obesity, bad cholesterol and too much belly fat.

Dr. David Alter, the senior scientist of a new study on sitting at the University Health Network (UHN) in Toronto said, “More than one-half of an average person’s days is spent being sedentary — sitting, watching television or working at a computer.” Studies have reported that people who sit for long periods were 24 percent more likely to die from health problems during the studies, which lasted between 1 and 16 years, compared to those who sat less.

And now the results of a new study in Australia indicate there is yet one more reason to get up from your chair….in addition to the physical impacts, there is evidence that there is a link between too much sitting and emotional stress; that is the more sedentary a person was, the more likely he or she was to feel anxious. Only nine studies have so far examined this link, so additional research is needed.

However, ultimately, the bottom line is sitting for a long period of time is bad for you, even if you are active and exercise regularly. Knowing this, make a point of getting up every hour or so….grab a drink, walk over to a co-worker’s desk, choose to stand more when you have a choice…it is worth it!

Posted 3 years, 11 months ago at 10:18 am.

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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 4 years ago at 12:07 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, 2 months ago at 9:37 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, 4 months ago at 11:25 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, 2 months ago at 10:33 am.

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The Benefits of Green Tea

Green tea may prove to be the solution to a number of the health issues faced by many people, especially shift workers.  Thousands of studies over the last 20 years have described its benefits. Dr. Christopher Ochner, a research scientist in nutrition at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, says “Green tea is beyond a super food.”  This is because it contains an abundance of catechins which are antioxidants that fight and may even prevent cell damage.

Drinking green tea helps the heart and brain, keeps blood sugar stable (diabetes), reduces stress and can increase and even change your metabolism to aid in weight loss. Wow! To learn more and to read the entire article, go to WebMD

Posted 5 years, 5 months ago at 10:30 am.

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The Health Benefits of Coffee

Concerned about having that second or third cup of coffee? Recent studies indicate that maybe you shouldn’t be! An article in the June 9th issue of the New York Times Magazine describes the notable health benefits of moderate (3-4 5 ounce cups) coffee drinking for both men and women.

Scientists have 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, studies conducted on both animals and humans indicate the caffeine in coffee may have a role in preventing dementia. This is an encouraging and welcome discovery as the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease is estimated to triple by 2050 as our population ages. Read this article …

Posted 6 years, 1 month ago at 4:00 pm.

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Pick Up Your Feet and Walk!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported good news with regard to walking-more Americans are doing it! The percentage of adults who went on a 10 minute walk once a week increased from 56% in 2005 to 62% in 2010. Even better is the fact that this increase was seen across all regions, races and ages.

We are certainly heading in the right direction, but we do have room for improvement. Federal guidelines recommend that adults get 2½ hours of moderate (brisk walking) to vigorous (running) exercise each week. It is not always easy to find the time to fit exercise into our routine; it is even more difficult for shift workers.

Walking is one of the most popular and accessible of physical activities since it requires no equipment, can be done anywhere and by people of different athletic abilities. How to start? Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park farther away, walk inside or outside your building when taking a break at work. Small steps can literally translate into lifesaving benefits.

Regular walking can improve your mood, lower blood pressure, help to manage diabetes and cholesterol and keep you trim and fit. Taking short breaks at work will keep you awake and at the top of your game. Give it a try!

 

Posted 6 years, 10 months ago at 10:02 am.

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Connecting Sleep Deprivation and Obesity

We very often write about the impact that sleep (or lack of it) has on every aspect of our lives, especially the lives of shift workers. The results of a new study have been released which might further explain the link between sleep loss and obesity which had been discovered earlier.

The study was presented at the Associated Professional Sleep Societies’ Annual Meeting, SLEEP 2012, in Boston in June.  According to its lead author, Stephanie Greer, its goal was to see if specific regions of the brain associated with food processing were disrupted by sleep deprivation. Twenty three healthy adults participated in two sessions using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), one after a normal night’s sleep and the other after a night of sleep deprivation. During both sessions, the participants rated how much they wanted different food items shown to them while they were in the scanner.

The results show that loss of sleep significantly impaired brain activity in the frontal lobe, the region critical for controlling behavior and making complex choices, such as which food to eat. Greer said the study suggests that sleep deprivation prevents higher brain functions, rather than those deeper in the brain structures that react to basic desires. With loss of sleep, the brain fails to integrate all the different signals that help us normally make wise choices about what we should eat.

Therefore when we are sleep deprived, our brain does not gather the information needed to decide the best types of food to eat, healthy relative to how tasty, so we may not be eating right or choosing the right foods. This may help explain the connection between sleep deprivation and obesity.

Posted 6 years, 11 months ago at 9:15 am.

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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, 1 month ago at 11:54 am.

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Seeking a Real Quick Route to Better Health? Eat More Red!

Shift workers are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes as they themselves report getting less exercise and being prone to eating more unhealthy foods, especially when working nights.  As a result, they are often overweight, contributing to heart disease and diabetes.  But, small steps can make a big difference.  The results from three new studies, all promoting the benefits of eating red foods [and drinks], have been released in the past few weeks.  Read this article…

Posted 9 years, 2 months ago at 4:36 pm.

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