Working Nights

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

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 2 years, 1 month ago at 9:15 am.

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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 2 years, 3 months ago at 1:01 pm.

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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 4 years, 2 months ago at 4:00 pm.

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Are We Breaking the Health Care Bank for Shift Workers?- Controlling the Rising Cost of Health Care

Long nights, little sleep, changing shifts- the collision of stress and exhaustion can cause other types of collisions for shift workers, such as collisions between cars with tired drivers, collisions in the arteries that cause heart attacks and strokes, and a whole host of other worries. Night work and shift jobs cause a huge variety of health problems for shift workers, problems that can rip chunks out of struggling checking accounts. Rising health care costs become a concern for managers, who have to shoulder a good deal of the cost with insurance, and for workers, who not only have to deal with their illness or injury but with the stress of paying for it. No one wants to choose between their salary and their health, or their job and their life. Management needs to spend money efficiently to keep everyone going strong. Zeroing in on extended hours workers will provide an employer more bang for their health care buck. Read this article…

Posted 5 years, 7 months ago at 5:24 pm.

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