Working Nights

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

Reducing Injuries From Falls

Falls occur throughout the world at an amazing rate. According to the World Health Organization, falls are the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths worldwide. In the United States, the National Safety Council reports that falls are one of the leading causes of unintentional injuries in the United States.

The chances of falling, slipping and tripping increase with inattention, illness, fatigue, and haste. Shift workers need to be aware of this as studies show that the disruption of normal sleep patterns due to shift work can cause drowsiness or fatigue, which can lead to increased workplace injuries.

The costs resulting from these falls are significant for all involved.

 

However, there is some good news out there about how we can begin to cut fall injuries! 

 

Researchers studying falls report that people who were taught to practice balance exercises each day had a 37 percent reduced risk of getting injured in a fall and a 61 percent lower risk of experiencing a broken bone from the fall, compared with those who didn’t do the exercises. Those are startling findings! While the researchers can’t fully explain why improved balance prevents injuries, they have theorized that those with a good sense of balance are aware milliseconds sooner that they are falling and use primordial instincts to make adjustments and reduce damage from the impact.

What do these balance exercises consist of? They are as simple as standing on one foot for a count of 10 to 20 seconds a few times a day(holding onto something if needed) or putting on your socks while standing (leaning against a wall or bed is fine). So simple, but what a difference they can make!

 

Posted 5 months, 2 weeks ago at 10:34 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 9 months ago at 11:34 am.

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The Health Benefits of Coffee

Concerned about having that second or third cup of coffee? Recent studies indicate that maybe you shouldn’t  be!  An article in the June 9th issue of the New York Times Magazine describes the notable health benefits of moderate (3-4 5 ounce cups) coffee drinking for both men and women.

Scientists have linked coffee drinking to a reduction in the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, prostate cancer, oral cancer, the most common skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma) and breast cancer recurrence. In addition, studies conducted on both animals and humans indicate the caffeine in coffee may have a role in preventing dementia.  This is an encouraging and welcome discovery as the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease is estimated to triple by 2050 as our population ages. Read this article …..

Posted 1 year, 1 month ago at 4:00 pm.

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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, 2 months ago at 8:38 am.

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Pick Up Your Feet and Walk!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported good news with regard to walking-more Americans are doing it! The percentage of adults who went on a 10 minute walk once a week increased from 56% in 2005 to 62% in 2010. Even better is the fact that this increase was seen across all regions, races and ages.

We are certainly heading in the right direction, but we do have room for improvement. Federal guidelines recommend that adults get 2 ½  hours of moderate (brisk walking) to vigorous (running) exercise each week. It is not always easy to find the time to fit exercise into our routine; it is even more difficult for shift workers.

Walking is one of the most popular and accessible of physical activities since it requires no equipment, can be done anywhere and by people of different athletic abilities. How to start? Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park farther away, walk inside or outside your building when taking a break at work. Small steps can literally translate into lifesaving benefits.

Regular walking can improve your mood, lower blood pressure, help to manage diabetes and cholesterol and keep you trim and fit. Taking short breaks at work  will keep you awake and at the top of your game. Give it a try!

 

Posted 1 year, 10 months ago at 10:02 am.

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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 1 year, 11 months ago at 9:15 am.

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One More Reason to Eat a Balanced Healthy Diet!

As though there aren’t enough reasons to eat a healthy balanced diet, researchers have come up with one more-Vitamin B6.  A study just published in the Journal of Nutrition shows a strong association between chronic inflammation and Vitamin B6; those people with the highest levels of B6 in their blood had the lowest levels of chronic inflammation and those with the lowest levels of B6 had the highest levels of chronic inflammation.

Normally, temporary  inflammation,  such as redness or swelling after an injury, is part of a healthy immune system. However, chronic inflammation is a much different and serious story. It occurs when the immune system does not shut off, which causes immune cells to interfere with the body’s healthy tissues. This can cause heart disease, diabetes and stroke, among other chronic diseases. Some of these are conditions that shift workers already have at a higher rate than day workers.  Even scarier, most people don’t know they have chronic inflammation since there is not a reliable blood test to screen for it.

The findings from this study give researchers a better idea of what is going on in the body regarding this inflammation. Other studies are now being conducted to determine the exact role of Vitamin B6; at this time experts are not recommending supplements. However, they do recommend including foods in your diet that contain B6 as there are numerous other benefits of this vitamin. B6 is present in chicken breasts, fish, hamburger, legumes, pinto beans and vegetables like red peppers and potatoes. Shift workers should try to include these foods in their daily diet. They are all foods which provide numerous health benefits….enjoy!

Posted 2 years, 1 month ago at 11:54 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, 4 months ago at 2:37 pm.

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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, 4 months ago at 11:09 am.

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The Problem of Migraines and Shift Work

Each year upwards of 90% of the U.S. population will feel headache pain and 13% will suffer from a migraine. Nearly 30 million Americans have migraines. Researchers from Johns Hopkins, after pooling results from 21 studies, involving 622,381 men and women, have found that migraine headaches are associated with more than double the likelihood of the most common kind of stroke – those occurring when blood supply to the brain is suddenly cut off by the buildup of plaque or a blood clot.

The National Headache Association estimates that headaches cost up to $17 billion dollars in absenteeism, lost productivity, and medical expenses each year. Ninety percent of respondents to a NHA 2008 survey indicated that headaches affected their work performance. Migraines are triggered by many different issues such as stress, environmental factors (e.g. lighting and eye strain), depression, or certain foods and some medications. One major factor in the development of migraines is lack of sleep.

Are shift workers more likely to suffer from migraines?
Read this article…

Posted 4 years, 7 months ago at 11:18 pm.

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The Connection Between Safety and Teamwork – It’s all about Communication and Taking Workers’ Individual Differences into Account!

Starting as young children, we’re taught about the importance of teamwork.  For example, we might have learned to work together to bring the groceries in from the car – maybe one person brought the bags into the house, another took them into the kitchen, another unpacked them, and someone else put the food away in the cabinets and fridge.  It felt fun working together at something; the experience was certainly more enjoyable than anyone doing the whole job on their own.  And, we could see that this four person exercise accomplished the task in a quarter of the time it would take one person to do the whole thing (if you were lucky enough to have four people to pitch in and help!).

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “No member of a crew is praised for the rugged individuality of his rowing.”  

As adults we’re told that teamwork is critical to achieving success in our jobs too.  But, is this really the case?

Read this article…

Posted 4 years, 8 months ago at 8:20 pm.

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