Working Nights

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

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 1 month ago at 3:38 pm.

Add a comment

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 months, 2 weeks ago at 10:18 am.

Add a comment

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… may eventually be in that marathon!

Posted 5 months, 1 week ago at 12:28 pm.

Add a comment

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 10 months ago at 11:54 am.

Add a comment

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 1 year, 6 months ago at 10:33 am.

Add a comment

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 1 year, 9 months ago at 10:30 am.

Add a comment

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 2 years, 1 month ago at 11:34 am.

Add a comment

Ladies and Gentlemen, Pick Up Your Brooms!

Looking for a way to increase your physical activity and fit the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week into your already full day? Start cleaning! As health experts look at the continued weight gain of people in North America, they have blamed fast food and sugary drinks. However, a recent study reports that one reason for the gain could be that we are doing half the housework than we did in the past.

The researchers report that currently 13 hours per week are spent doing housework, about half of what was done in 1965. They have calculated that 360 fewer calories are burned each day because of the decline in housework. This is the equivalent of 30 minutes of running or an hour long aerobics class seven days a week. Wow!

So pick up your broom, scrub that floor, wash your dishes, pick up the clutter, clean out that closet – get up and move! You will feel better, live longer, get in shape and have the cleanest house on the block!

Posted 2 years, 8 months ago at 1:16 pm.

Add a comment

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 3 years, 2 months ago at 10:02 am.

Add a comment

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 3 years, 5 months ago at 11:54 am.

Add a comment

Wellness Programs and Social Media

Social media is proving to be an important tool for employers trying to encourage their employees to participate in Wellness Programs or to achieve weight/health goals. With much of the population looking at text messages, Facebook and Twitter each day, it appears to be the wave of the future.

The question at this point is how it should be used; many companies are coming up with ways it can be the most effective for their employees.  Chilton Hospital in New Jersey had tried for years to engage its employees in programs and initiatives aimed at promoting well-being and reducing health care costs. The resulting behavior changes were minor and covered only a small number of employees.  Then in 2011, Chilton tried a new approach; they entered a county-wide 100 day fitness challenge where employees from local companies formed teams of 6 and vied to see who could walk the most, lose the most weight and eat the healthiest. Participants logged onto a Facebook-like social network where they reported results and cheered each other on. As an incentive to participate, Chilton did offer a cash reward of $150 each to members of the winning team and $500 to the person who lost the most weight. Ultimately though, money was not the driving force; it was the challenge and online camaraderie that pulled people in.

Another company, incentalHEALTH, surveyed the participants in its own Wellness Program about their use of social media. It found that 90% of them were on Facebook and 81% texted daily. With this information, the company created a model which delivers wellness information via daily coaching texts and a Brag to Facebook feature. Other features being considered are online wellness journals, discussion groups and progress reports that can be shared with others.

There is an ever growing list of services and apps now available (with more and more coming out each day) for those companies interested in promoting wellness through social media. What better way to get people involved and to change unhealthy behaviors than by employing a media that is an integral part of so many their lives?


Posted 3 years, 5 months ago at 1:01 pm.

Add a comment

Family History and Your Heart

Coronary heart disease is the result of plaque buildup in the arteries, which blocks blood flow and heightens the risk for heart attack and stroke. It accounts for 1 in 6 deaths in the United States.
Currently, the Framingham Risk Score is the most widely used method for measuring heart risk. It takes into account general information, such as blood pressure, cholesterol level and basic knowledge about whether a family member had a history of heart disease. Based on the results, a decision is made as to who may be at high risk.
However, a recent article in the Wall Street Journal reports that a new study shows that detailed family information could help doctors better predict who is at high risk for heart disease. Dr. Donna Arnett, a genetic epidemiologist and president-elect of the American Heart Association, says that, “Family history remains one of the most important predictors of an event for an individual. But most of the family history that we’re collecting is just the presence or the absence of heart disease, not the age of onset or the type of disease.”
Another risk-measurement tool, the Reynolds Risk Score, does consider if a patient’s parent had a heart attack and at what age. This tool has been available since 2007 but is not yet widely used. Gathering the additional information does take more time and often, the patient is not aware of his family health history.
So the next time you are at a family gathering, ask some questions about the health histories of your parents, grandparents and siblings. Find out if they had heart disease, a heart attack and at what age. The more information you have, the easier it will be for your doctor to make a diagnosis. It could save your life!

Posted 3 years, 8 months ago at 8:38 am.

Add a comment

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 3 years, 9 months ago at 11:25 am.

Add a comment

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 5 years ago at 10:00 am.

Add a comment

It’s Important to Talk with your Doctor about Working Shift Work

If you’ve read much of the material on this blog, you know that working shift work contributes to many challenging, but manageable, health and lifestyle issues.  One way to make sure you manage your own unique circumstances is by talking with your health practitioner about the fact you work shifts and raising any concerns you have about shift work.  A recent study by the University of Illinois at Chicago and the VA Center for Management of Complex Chronic Care found that physicians tend to follow a fairly standard approach to care for most health conditions.  Physicians do not generally take into account a particular patient’s situation or life context, so the fact that a patient works shift work is not likely to enter the doctor’s radar screen.  But, it’s critical for shift workers to have doctors who understand the unique challenges of working shift work.

Some of the special issues shift workers can face include:

1.  Sleep disturbances from work schedules distrupting sleep schedules.

2. Lower levels of Vitamin D resulting from lack of exposure to sunlight.

3. Overweight due to lack of nutritional food when working nights.

4. Higher rates of divorce due to lifestyle challenges of working shifts.

5. Increased risk for depression arising from lower levels of seratonin.

Read other posts throughout this blog for more areas of risk when working shifts.

Next time you go to your health practitioner, bring a list of your concerns and be vocal about them with your provider.  Make sure your doctor or nurse practitioner knows you work shift work.  The University of Illinois at Chicago and the VA Center for Management of Complex Chronic Care study found that doctors were more likely to respond to biomedical facts – e.g. test results – than to contextual red flags – such as I work  shift work and I’m concerned about my increased risk for cardiac problems even though I don’t have any family members with heart health issues.  Both biomedical facts and contextual red flags are equally important to planning appropriate care, according to the study researchers.  By planning care with your provider you can prevent shift work challenges from impacting your health and lifestyle.

©2010 Circadian Age, Inc. ‘Working Nights’

Posted 5 years, 4 months ago at 4:00 pm.

Add a comment