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 4 weeks, 1 day ago at 3:38 pm.

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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 months, 1 week 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… may eventually be in that marathon!

Posted 5 months ago at 12:28 pm.

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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 8 months, 2 weeks 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 8 months, 4 weeks 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 10 months 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 1 year, 1 month 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 2 years, 3 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 2 years, 6 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 2 years, 6 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, 8 months 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 3 years 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 3 years, 7 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, 8 months 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 4 years, 2 months ago at 7:41 pm.

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