Working Nights

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

The Impact of Daylight Saving Time

How are you feeling this week….even more tired than usual?  That may be due to Daylight Saving Time which occurred this past weekend. As we move the clocks forward, we lose an hour of that so very essential and precious sleep. On March 9 the Wall Street Journal published an article examining the side effects and repercussions of that lost hour (that loss has an even greater impact on shift workers!). To learn more, go to the Wall Street Journal……


Posted 2 weeks, 2 days ago at 11:39 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 3 weeks, 4 days ago at 11:25 am.

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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 1 month, 4 weeks ago at 11:54 am.

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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 5 months, 4 weeks ago at 1:59 pm.

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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 suffer’s 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 1 year, 7 months 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 1 year, 10 months 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 1 year, 10 months ago at 8:38 am.

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Breaking News from the National Sleep Foundation!

In the past, sleep experts had warned us about exercising too close to bed time. They said excitement hormones such as adrenaline, which rise during exercise to give us energy and take about three hours to fall back to normal levels, would interfere with a good night’s sleep.

However, recent studies show this is not the case! These studies indicate that the timing of your exercise has no impact on your quality or quantity of sleep. This research is backed by a survey released by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) which makes the case for exercising to improve sleep, regardless of the time of day or night. The survey polled vigorous exercisers who, whether exercising first thing in the morning or right before bed, were twice as likely as sedentary people to report they had a good night’s sleep every night or almost every night the week before. Therefore, the NSF has amended its recommendation for normal sleepers to encourage exercise at any time of day or night.

This is wonderful news for shift workers who often find it difficult to get to sleep and to fit exercise into their schedule. To learn more about this new information, go to the National Sleep Foundation’s website.

Posted 2 years ago at 9:27 am.

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The Importance of Sleep

It seems as if each day there is new information on sleep, its importance in our daily lives and the severe implications to our health if we don’t get enough. Sleep deprivation is now considered a widespread public health issue as one in five American adults show signs of it. While this news certainly impacts all people, it is of even greater significance to shift workers, who on average get less sleep.

A recent article in e! Science News talks about the October meeting of Neuroscience 2012 during which a number of new findings on sleep were revealed. One of the findings describes how sleep enables the remodeling of memories — including the weakening of irrelevant memories — and the coherent integration of old and new information.  Another shows that loss of less than half a night’s sleep can impair memory and alter the normal behavior of brain cells.

Dr. Clifford Saper, an expert on sleep and sleep deprivation who served as the press conference moderator, said “As these research findings show, we cannot underestimate the value of a good night’s sleep”. To learn more and read the article in its entirety, please click here..

Posted 2 years, 4 months ago at 2:27 pm.

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Trying to Achieve Work Life Balance?

The number of people, both young and old, who are trying to successfully balance their work and home lives is increasing every day. Julie McCarthy, an associate professor of organizational behavior at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC), asks us to look at the roles we play and ask if they are working for us. She was curious to learn what strategies were being used to deal with the opposing demands on time, attention and energy that so many of us face.
She conducted a study which looked at how undergraduate students with jobs handled these demands. She looked at the three strategies most commonly used by people to deal with this: solution driven active engagement (problem focused), venting to others (emotion focused), and ignoring the problems altogether and distracting themselves with other activities (avoidance focused).
Traditionally, it is thought that the first method, problem focused, is the best of the three. However, Professor McCarthy’s results indicated that strategy can actually cause more problems, as a result of stress, over exhaustion and lack of recovery time. Dealing with all the issues at once can be draining and can lead to burnout, depression and poor health. People need downtime in order to refocus and get rejuvenated.
Much to the surprise of the researchers, the third coping mechanism, avoidance, proved to be the one that provided the most balance. By putting the problems aside and not thinking about them for a while, the participants were able to put all their energy and focus into another issue. Professor McCarthy concludes that maybe by backing off and taking breaks, students are able to replenish their resources.

So step back, look at the roles you play and how you are handling them. If you are not satisfied with the results, try a different strategy-you may be surprised!







maybe by backing off and taking breaks, students are able to replenish their resources.”
So step back, look at the roles you play and how you are handling them. If you are not satisfied with the results, try a different strategy-you may be surprised!

Posted 2 years, 11 months ago at 2:24 pm.

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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 3 years ago at 2:37 pm.

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New Research Shift Workers Should Be Aware of…….

Read on if you are interested in identifying whether you might have heart disease, learn about a possible new way to treat sleep apnea, or hear more about sleep disorders…….
Read this article…

Posted 3 years, 6 months ago at 7:41 pm.

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Beware of the Brownies!

Baked World, a company based in Memphis, TN markets a brownie called Lazy Larry, but BEWARE-these are not your mother’s brownies! They are filled with melatonin, a naturally occurring compound often used to treat sleep disorders. As a result, the Food and Drug Administration has sent Baked World a warning letter ordering them to stop marketing Laxy Larry as simply a “brownie”. Dr. Lloyd Sederer reports in the Huffington Post that the misuse of melatonin can result in numerous side effects and serious consequences. To learn more about these brownies, click here.

Posted 3 years, 7 months ago at 3:38 pm.

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……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 3 years, 10 months ago at 9:53 am.

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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, 8 months ago at 4:00 pm.

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