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 1 month ago at 3:38 pm.

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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 months, 2 weeks 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 months, 1 week ago at 12:07 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, 3 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 9 months 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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Less Might Be More

Good news for shift workers! The Wall Street Journal is reporting that recent sleep studies have found that 7 hours is the optimal amount of sleep, not 8 as were recommended in the past. One study showed that cognitive performance increased as people got more sleep, reaching a peak at seven hours before starting to decline. Another found the lowest mortality and morbidity with 7 hours. Researchers are also reporting that too much sleep may be as harmful as too little sleep. The new sleep guidelines are expected to be issued in 2015.

Experts agree though that the optimal amount of sleep is what is right for each individual. Learn how you can determine what is right for you and learn more about the new sleep studies..


Posted 1 year, 4 months ago at 9:30 am.

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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 didnt do the exercises. Those are startling findings! While the researchers cant 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 1 year, 9 months ago at 10:34 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 1 year, 10 months ago at 11:40 am.

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Is There a Link between Sleep and Alzheimer’s Disease?


Last month we wrote about a new study that described how the brain cleans itself as we sleep by flushing out the toxins accumulated during our waking hours. We noted that 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 AD (Alzheimers Disease) patients.

Sleep patterns have previously been linked to beta-amyloid plaques. Researchers from The John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health have observed that those with AD spend more time awake and have more fragmented sleep patterns than those without the disease. They wanted to determine whether there was a link between beta-amyloid deposits and sleep within community-dwelling older adults.

The test group for their study consisted of 70 adults with an average age of 76; none of the participants had any form of dementia. They were asked to record their sleep patterns which included the duration of sleep and any trouble falling or staying asleep. Various brain imaging techniques were used to measure the beta-amyloid deposition in their brains.

The researchers report that the results of this study were consistent with those from animal research in which sleep deprivation increased interstitial fluid beta-amyloid levels. They note that this could have a tremendous impact on public health as AD is the most common form of dementia and almost half of older adults with the disorder report insomnia based symptoms. They say that “because late-life sleep disturbance can be treated, interventions to improve sleep or maintain healthy sleep among older adults may help prevent or slow AD to the extent that poor sleep promotes AD onset and progression.

The emotional, financial and logistical costs of AD are significant and will only increase as our population ages and more people are diagnosed. Further testing and research regarding sleep and its connection to AD continue to be conducted. The Cure Alzheimer’s Fund of Wellesley Hills, MA, dedicated to ending Alzheimer’s Disease, is currently funding a proposal on this subject.

Posted 2 years ago at 2:46 pm.

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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 2 years, 1 month ago at 11:34 am.

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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, 4 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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