Working Nights

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

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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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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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…..you may eventually be in that marathon!

Posted 4 years, 1 month ago at 12:28 pm.

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The Benefits of Walking with Friends

How do you handle stress? Would you like to improve your emotional and mental health? The findings of a new large scale study conducted by the University of Michigan suggest that taking a walk, getting out in nature and being with friends are the ways to do that! Group nature walks are linked with significantly lower depression, less perceived stress and enhanced mental health and well-being.

Walking is economical, can be done at any time and so many are able to do it….why not give it a try?

Learn more about the study….

Posted 4 years, 9 months ago at 1:59 pm.

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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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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 worker’s 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 5 years, 6 months ago at 11:40 am.

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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 6 years, 4 months ago at 1:16 pm.

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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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An Apple A Day May…

keep the fat away (as well as the doctor)! A study in Plos One suggests that eating unpeeled apples may keep extra pounds and obesity related diseases at bay.

The study, conducted at the University of Iowa, found that a compound in apple skins, ursolic acid, helped mice increase their muscle mass and develop more calorie burning brown fat, even while eating a high fat diet. These two tissues are recognized for their calorie-burning properties. Besides helping the mice shed weight, ursolic acid also helped keep pre-diabetes and fatty liver disease from forming.

Mice eating the same diet without the compound did not show these results.

The researchers used a low concentration of ursolic acid, equivalent to eating one or two apples each day, to conduct their study. This is very good news for shift workers whose eating habits are altered when working shifts, causing them to gain more weight and eat less healthy than the general population. An apple is a simple, easy and powerhouse snack to bring to work each day. Who would think that something so small could help us so much?

Posted 7 years ago at 10:10 am.

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Have Heartburn during the Nightshift?

A team of researchers recruited 350 people to look at whether their nighttime eating habits predicted their risk of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Stomach contents (food or liquid) of people suffering from GERD leak backwards from the stomach into the esophagus (the tube from the mouth to the stomach). This can irritate the esophagus, causing heartburn and other symptoms. Obesity, cigarettes, and possibly alcohol also increase the chance of GERD.

After controlling for smoking, body mass index and other things that influence heartburn, the researchers found that eating dinner within three hours of going to bed was associated with a sevenfold increase in the risk of reflux symptoms. As for why three to four hours is the threshold, researchers say that is roughly the amount of time it takes for food to clear the stomach.

Researchers from Mid Sweden University performed a systematic review of the medical literature noting studies that have reported gastrointestinal symptoms and diseases among shift workers by researchers from Mid Sweden University. Studies have indicated that shift workers appear to have increased risk of gastrointestinal symptoms and peptic ulcer disease. Workplace noise, increased work schedule variability, and working the evening shift may have the most adverse affect on gastrointestinal functioning.

Here are some suggestions of ways to minimize gastrointestinal discomfort by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine:
-Avoid bending over or exercising just after eating.
-Avoid garments or belts that fit tightly around your waist.
-Do not lie down with a full stomach. For example, avoid eating within 2 – 3 hours of bedtime.
– Do not smoke.
– Eat smaller meals.
– Lose weight, if you are overweight.
– Reduce stress.
-Sleep with your head raised about 6 inches. Do this by tilting your entire bed, or by using a wedge under your body, not just with normal pillows.
2011 Circadian Age, Inc.˜Working Nights”

Posted 7 years, 10 months ago at 1:17 pm.

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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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New Study Supports Claims that Oatmeal is Good for Shift Workers!

Numerous studies have indicated that sleep is essential for normal immune system functioning and to maintain the body’s ability to fight off disease and sickness. Most shift workers exist in sleep deprived states as a result of only getting 5-6 hours of sleep per 24-hour period.  So, as a result, it’s likely that shift workers’ immune systems are compromised, contributing to more cases of the common cold and flu, but also to chronic health issues many shift workers face, for example, diabetes and heart disease.

At Working Nights, we’re always looking for new solutions to improve shift worker health and wellbeing.  Here’s a new idea…

Read this article…

Posted 9 years, 4 months ago at 5:33 pm.

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Weight, Obesity, Fitness and Health

With shift work, weight gain seems almost unavoidable- perhaps even more reliable than a weekly paycheck. Behind us are our genes, programmed in times of hunting and gathering to push us to see food, grab it, and devour it, since who knows when another fruit tree or dead animal fall into our laps? In front of us living in the 21st century is McDonalds, Dairy Queen, Sonic, Burger King, huge supermarkets, big plates and silverware, lattes, breakfast muffins, cars to carry us from one place of food to another. Furthermore, shift work makes time for exercise difficult. Night shifts sleep, which can cause the body to hang on to extra weight. It’s no wonder obesity has become such a problem. Many news articles talk about the problem, but how can you determine your risk level and what plan of action is right for you? Read this article…

Posted 10 years, 2 months ago at 9:49 am.

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