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 3 months ago at 11:40 am.

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Leave Your Stress at Work!

 

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that forthcoming research from the Academy of Management Journal will show that workers reported lower stress levels at the end of their work day/night after spending a few minutes jotting down positive events at the end of their shift, along with why those things made them feel good. Can that simple step really help?

The researchers conducting the study tracked workers over a 15 day period. They logged their blood pressure and stress symptoms such as headaches, fatigue and difficulty concentrating.  The researchers then noted the changes when, at the end of their shift, the workers wrote down their accomplishments from that day. Positive thinking eased the tension. Theresa Glomb, a co-author of the report, says that the most significant impact comes from writing down why those things made them feel good. She says that act highlights the resources and support a person has in their work life—such as skills, a good sense of humor, an encouraging family or a compassionate boss. And the reflections do not have to be work-related as about 40% of the end of day reflections had nothing to do with work but still made the participants calmer once they went home.

A key point is to not make this activity a mandatory requirement; that could result in creating additional stress instead of reducing it! Why not give it a try?

Posted 7 months ago at 12:25 pm.

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Fun in the Sun

Ahhh…the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer …blue skies, hot sun….as we spend more time outside playing, exercising and working we must keep in mind how dangerous the heat can be if precautions are not taken.

Dehydration and heat exhaustion are two conditions that can occur in hot weather, often without us even realizing it. When dehydrated, our body is not able to produce enough sweat which is needed to reduce our internal body temperature and move the heat out. If sweat is not being made, our body’s core temperature rises which could result in heat exhaustion or heat stroke-two very serious conditions. Symptoms of dehydration may be dizziness, dry mouth, decreased sweating and dark urine.

Once our body is overheated, heat exhaustion can happen. We could experience fatigue, nausea, headache, vomiting and cold clammy skin with excessive sweating. If left untreated, this could lead to heat stroke which is considered to be a life threatening condition.

The good news is that these conditions can be prevented and we can enjoy being outside! Here are some guidelines to follow to ensure healthy and safe outdoor living:

  • Stay hydrated; drink every 20-30 minutes. If working or exercising excessively, try sports drinks.
  • Use sunscreen.
  • If possible, avoid the middle part of the day when the sun is the strongest.
  • Dress appropriately in light weight and light colored clothes; also, wear a hat.

 

Posted 8 months, 1 week ago at 1:20 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 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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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 1 year, 1 month ago at 9:27 am.

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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!

Posted 2 years ago at 2:24 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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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 2 years, 8 months ago at 3:38 pm.

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Is Time Alone Good for You?

Our contact with shift workers indicates that they tend to spend a lot of time alone. The schedules shift workers are on are often not conducive to a lot of togetherness with family and friends. We often write about the need for shift workers to stay in touch and find time for recreation with others. Recently there have been several studies about the importance of time spent alone. Solitude has been linked with creativity, spirituality, and intellectual insight for decades. Now studies are showing that we remember things better when we are alone. Taking time for self-reflection is a good thing; being surrounded by others can hamper a person’s efforts to figure out what he or she really thinks of something. Perhaps shift workers’ time alone allows them time to know themselves more truly than other do.
Read this article…

Posted 3 years, 1 month ago at 12:26 pm.

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Want Happy Memories this Holiday Season? Consider Scrimping on Sleep!

Sleep plays a crucial role in the development of memories….but lack of sleep may actually help you put your bad experiences aside!

Researchers showed healthy volunteers video clips of both safe driving and unexpected motor vehicle accidents. After viewing the clips, half of the volunteers were deprived of sleep while the other half received a normal night’s sleep. Sleep deprivation eliminated the fear-associated memories. The researchers suggest this may be due to the lack of memory consolidation that typically occurs during sleep.

So, if you’re not looking forward to unsettling holiday parties, stressful family events, too much overtime work, or dealing with the loss of a loved one – take it easy. But don’t be too focused on getting extra sleep. A little sleep deprivation may be a good thing. Just make sure you’re rested enough that you’re ready for what you need to do – whether work or play!

Happy Holidays from WorkingNights.

©2010 Circadian Age, Inc. ‘Working Nights’

Posted 3 years, 4 months ago at 11:10 pm.

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Next Time Don’t Complain, Tell a Joke Instead!

Almost all serial killers are men. That’s ’cause women like to kill one man slowly over many, many years.  (Robert Duchaine)

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Men who consistently leave the toilet seat up secretly want women to get up to go the bathroom in the middle of the night and fall in.  (Rita Rudner)

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I found out why cats drink out of the toilet. My mother told me it’s because it’s cold in there. And I’m like: How did my mother know THAT?  (Wendy Liebman) 

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Laughing puts us in a positive mood.  The physiological reaction to humor results in lower stress hormone levels, increased immune activity, and lower cholesterol and blood pressure.  Repetitive laughing has similar effects on the body as moderate exercise, according to a study from Loma Linda University’s Schools of Allied Health and Medicine.

Read this article…

Posted 3 years, 11 months ago at 10:33 am.

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How Do You React to Stress?

Work can be hugely stressful. In fact, twenty-five percent of Americans say that their job is their greatest contributor to the angst in their lives.  And, clearly there are other stresses too.  Pressure, anxiety, and tension can result in headaches, sleep disturbances, difficulty concentrating, short tempers, upset stomachs, low morale, and general life dissatisfaction.  Shift workers can experience extra stress as a result of working variable hours, getting less sleep, having little access to family members and friends, leading to increased isolation and lack of support.

Stress can be reduced though, and here are some ideas to help. Read this article…

Posted 4 years ago at 1:12 pm.

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Try and Take Full Advantage of Recovery Days – Especially over the Holidays

There have been a number of studies done on the importance of recovery days after working shifts. It’s logical….our bodies (and minds) can’t work at odd hours, long days, or rapidly rotating schedules, without being seriously impacted. Now, a few days before Christmas and a week before New Year’s, almost everyone is suffering from depleted energy. But as we continue to push ourselves to persevere, saying, “Just hold on and get through the holidays; it’ll be over soon,” we seek our ways to cope. Often we do this in a robotic-like fashion, not even consciously. We might drink a little too much hoping to calm ourselves down for sleep, pop pain-killers to reduce our aches and pains from all the running around, or skip dinner in favor of Doritos because we’re too tired to cook.

Sound familiar? These are the feelings, vegetative state, and survival tactics most shift workers face on a regular basis, not just around the holidays. If you work shifts, you know.

Back to recovery days……
Read this article…

Posted 4 years, 4 months ago at 10:12 am.

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Can Music Calm a Shift Worker’s Soul – and Improve Sleep as Well?

Where can you find Coldplay, Betty Buckley, The Beastie Boys, Bruce Hornsby, and Vanessa Carleton all working together? Seems like an unlikely group, doesn’t it?

These musicians and many other creative types are big supporters of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function (IMNF). Created in 1995, IMNF was founded “to restore, maintain and improve people’s physical, emotional and neurologic functioning through the systematic use of music.” IMNF collaborates with researchers and practitioners around the world to advance the understanding and application of the power of music to promote healing and wellness. Some of IMNF’s most significant research and startling findings are in the areas of music and its impact on language, memory, and recovery from nerve injury.

How does music affect shift workers? Should it be listened to at work? Does it help you fall asleep? Can it lower stress when coping with variable schedules?
Read this article…

Posted 4 years, 4 months ago at 9:50 pm.

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New Research Proves – You are what you eat – More than Ever!

Australian researchers overseeing a study published last month in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that eating more carbohydrates than fat and protein increases serotonin production in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical that has been linked with improved mood and mental health. Shift workers have been found to have lower levels of serotonin than daytime employees. Does this mean that people working the night shift should run out and stock up on potatoes, beans, rice, pasta, and bread? YES

In the study, half of the participants spent a year following a diet low in fat and high in carbohydrates. The other half went on a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. The participants in both groups lost 30 pounds on average and generally said they felt happier after two months on the diet. But after continuing to diet for a year, the people who ate less fat (butter, steak, pork, veal) and more carbs (pasta and potatoes) reported feeling happier and less depressed and anxious than they had before. The other group, who ate more fat and fewer carbohydrates, felt that their moods were worse than they’d been before.

The book, “The Serotonin Power Diet,’’ by Judith J. Wurtman, PhD and Nina T. Fruszajer, MD, published in December of 2006 beat the Australians to the punch line. The book’s authors state on the home page of their website, “Our brains makes serotonin when you eat foods such as pretzels, pasta, rice, and potatoes – in the right amounts, at the right times of the day, and without protein.” And they also say that serotonin curbs your appetite, restores mental energy, and soothes emotional stress. The authors recommend that “30-60 minutes before your next meal, munch on a serotonin soothing snack: pretzels, cheerios, popcorn, or cherry licorice bites. Notice how it takes the edge off your appetite and energizes you.”

Buy the Serotonin Power Diet on Amazon.com. To read more about serotonin and shift work read our previous blog posting.

Posted 4 years, 4 months ago at 9:40 pm.

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