Working Nights

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

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 workers’ 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 2 months, 4 weeks ago at 11:40 am.

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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 5 months, 3 weeks ago at 11:34 am.

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Is the Restless Legs Mystery Solved?

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a subject of concern to shift workers because it often disrupts their already limited hours of sleep. It is a disorder that causes a strong urge to move your legs, usually when you are sleeping or inactive, resulting in difficulty getting to sleep and maintaining sleep.

The good news is that researchers continue to study RLS in order to try to improve suffers’ sleep.  Studies have shown that RLS patients’ sleep is not significantly improved even when their involuntary leg movements are reduced by certain drugs; this has been a mystery to researchers. However, new findings by Johns Hopkins researchers, published in the May issue of the journal Neurology, show this mystery may have been solved. To learn more about these results, read the article in e! science news….

 

Posted 8 months, 3 weeks ago at 11:27 am.

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Can lost sleep be recovered?

We all know that sleep deficit is a constant problem for many shift workers. And we also know that having a sleep debt impacts every faction of our lives. So…the debate continues…what is the best way to make up that sleep? A May 20th article in the Wall Street Journal discusses this issue and offers some suggestions.

What is best for you, your schedule and your sleep type? Should you sleep binge, sleep bank or nap? Click here to learn more….. 

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

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A.D.H.D. or Sleep Deficit?

At this point, it appears we all know someone (if not yourself!) who has been diagnosed or has symptoms attributable to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or A.D.H.D. The classic symptoms of A.D.H.D. include procrastination, forgetfulness, the inability to pay attention consistently and the propensity to lose things. However, as a recent article published in the New York Times points out, there is an important diagnostic criterion: symptoms must date back to childhood.  Yet, in many patients, it has been shown they don’t.

Vatsal G. Thakkar, the article’s author, proposes that in a substantial number of cases, these symptoms may be a result of chronic sleep deficit! In today’s 24/7 society, we all get less sleep than we used to, especially shift workers.  We at Working Nights often discuss the importance of sleep and what happens if we do not get enough. It has a tremendous negative impact on our health and wellbeing. Learn more about these sleep findings by reading the article in the New York Times….

Posted 11 months, 2 weeks ago at 8:38 am.

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What is the Perfect Sleep Position?

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal reported that according to experts, there is no perfect position and there is no one right way to sleep! Because sleep is such an important part of a healthy lifestyle, it is vital to find the position that is most comfortable for you and allows you to have the best night’s sleep possible. People with certain medical conditions and pain should determine what position works best for them that can help to aid or eliminate their problem.

Here are some interesting sleep position facts:

1.  The three basic sleeping positions (in order of their popularity) are side, back and stomach with variables to each of these; each position has its own advantages and disadvantages.

2.  Sleep specialists recommend side sleeping for the most restful, uninterrupted sleep.

3.  They do  not recommend stomach sleeping as it could cause lower back and neck pain.

4.  Sleeping in the same position can consistently compress one part of the body.

5.  Sleep studies show that people move anywhere from 3-36 times a night; the average person switches about a dozen times.

6.  Finding the right mattress and using pillows at various locations on and under your body can help you sleep well.

If you are having difficulty finding the most comfortable sleep position, do your research to determine what might help or consult a sleep specialist or physical therapist. Your sleep is too important to not make it the best it can be!

 

Posted 1 year, 2 months ago at 11:21 am.

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Rock ‘n…..

Sleep! We have all had those times when we are in a hammock or rocking chair and, with it gently swaying, have quickly fallen asleep. It is that same rocking motion that puts our babies to sleep. Researchers have been studying just why the slow swinging makes us go to sleep faster.
A study conducted by the University of Geneva asked 12 adult males with no sleep issues to take 2 45 minute afternoon naps. One nap was on a stationary bed and one on a gently rocking bed (hammock-like). During the naps, their brain activity was monitored.
The results were significant:
• All feel asleep more quickly when rocking
• Most said the nap was more “pleasant” than usual
• Measured brain activity showed an increase in the areas of deeper more restful sleep and more continuous sleep
• All moved more quickly from Stage 1 to Stage 2 sleep which is where more than half of our sleep time is spent
These results are especially important to shift workers as it is very often difficult to fall asleep and to stay asleep. Researchers are now studying the effects of rocking over longer periods of sleep and on those who suffer from insomnia or other sleep issues.

Posted 2 years ago at 9:49 am.

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More Reasons To Get Up And Go!

Many of us are aware of the advantages of physical activity …..and we also know how hard it can be to fit it into our already busy days (and nights)! However, researchers are discovering even more reasons why we should get up and go!

How about a better night’s sleep? The current national guidelines for recommended physical activity are 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise. These guidelines were originally established to improve and maintain cardiovascular health. However, studies are showing that these guidelines have a spillover to other areas of health.
Brad Cardinal, an author of a study published recently in the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity, stated, “Increasingly, the scientific evidence is encouraging as regular physical activity may serve as a non-pharmaceutical alternative to improve sleep.” This is significant for shift workers as they regularly get less sleep than day workers, and often have difficulty falling asleep. The study shows a 65% improvement in sleep quality for those participants who were more active. Those people were also less sleepy during the day which means increased productivity on the job.

How about feeling more excited and enthusiastic? Researchers at Penn State asked study participants to daily record their physical activity (if greater than 15 minutes), their mental states and their sleep quantity and quality. They discovered that people who were physically active had more pleasant activated feelings. Also, on days when people were more physically active than usual, they reported feelings of excitement and enthusiasm.
So, while we might feel like we are too tired to exercise, if we take that first step, we are on our way. One day of exercise can lead to the next and to the next….let’s give it a try!

Posted 2 years, 1 month ago at 2:37 pm.

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New Information about Sleep and Shift Work

We’ve written extensively about the challenges many shift workers face as a result of not getting enough sleep. A few new studies provide more insight for those with sleep challenges. Read this article…

Posted 2 years, 4 months ago at 8:25 pm.

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IS SNORING…….

………. keeping you or your partner awake night after night? We often joke and laugh about snoring but it can be a serious matter, especially for shift workers as they already get less sleep than daytime workers. Almost one half of the adult population snores at least occasionally, resulting in many sleepless nights for many people.

Snoring occurs when air flows over relaxed tissues in your throat causing the tissues to vibrate as you breathe; this creates those annoying sounds. The tissues may obstruct your airway making it narrower, so the airflow becomes more forceful and the snoring becomes louder. While snoring itself is not a health problem, it may indicate a more serious health condition, such as sleep apnea where your airways are so obstructed that you stop or nearly stop breathing as you sleep.

There are risk factors that may contribute to snoring. Some of them are:

  • Being a man
  • Being overweight
  • Alcohol consumption close to bedtime
  • Nasal problems
  • Having a narrow airway

 

If you do suffer from plain old snoring, most doctors recommend making some lifestyle changes such as losing weight, reducing your consumption of alcohol near bedtime and sleeping on your side. These are all low cost or free. There are plenty of products (throat exercises, special pillows, mouth and nose devices) out there that do promise to eliminate snoring but their results have not yet been proven. If lifestyle changes do not help, doctors often recommend the mask or CPAP, oral appliances or surgery. Most insurance plans will not cover treatments for regular snoring, but will cover them if you are diagnosed with sleep apnea.

Do see a doctor if your snoring is disrupting your or anyone’s sleep or if you wake up gasping for air. A good night’s or day’s rest is essential to a happy and healthy you!

Posted 2 years, 11 months ago at 9:53 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 4 years, 1 month ago at 11:09 am.

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A Great Book to Read over the Holidays – “My Stroke of Insight,” by Jill Bolte Taylor

Book ReviewMy Stroke of Insight – a Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.,

Taylor’s book provides a unique education about our brains, in particular, about how the two different hemispheres of our brains work – together and independently.  Taylor provides insight into the impact of impaired brain functioning, something that is critical to the health and safety of shift workers and to the success of shift work operations.  Shift workers are known to exist on less than the optimal amount of sleep ~ typically 5 hours versus 7-8 hours; while obviously not as severe as a stroke, sleep deprivation has been shown to have a significant negative impact on the brain’s ability to perform.

There have been many studies on the impact of sleep deprivation on the brain.  In one study (Dai-Jin Kim et al, International Journal of Neuroscience, 2001), sleep deprived subjects showed no differences in distractibility, physical and visual functioning, reading, writing, arithmetic, and intellectual processes when compared to study participants who were allowed to sleep.  However, cognitive functions such as motor skills, rhythm, receptive and expressive speech, memory and complex verbal and arithmetic functions were decreased after sleep deprivation.  In another study (Drummond et al, Nature, 2000), researchers found “dynamic, compensatory changes in cerebral activation during verbal learning after sleep deprivation.” The researchers found that the prefrontal cortex (controls decision making and following through with thoughts and actions) and the parietal lobes (sensory integration) were key factors in allowing the subjects to function after sleep deprivation.  In other words, our brains work hard to compensate when we are sleep deprived and this may explain why some people claim they can exist on very little sleep – something we don’t recommend.

Read this article…

Posted 4 years, 3 months ago at 1:11 pm.

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