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 2 months, 1 week 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 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 2 months, 4 weeks 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 (Alzheimer’s 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 5 months, 1 week 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 5 months, 3 weeks 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 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, 2 weeks 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 10 months, 3 weeks 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 11 months, 2 weeks 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 1 year, 1 month ago at 9:27 am.

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What is the Perfect Sleep Position?

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal reported that according to experts, there is no perfect position and there is no one right way to sleep! Because sleep is such an important part of a healthy lifestyle, it is vital to find the position that is most comfortable for you and allows you to have the best night’s sleep possible. People with certain medical conditions and pain should determine what position works best for them that can help to aid or eliminate their problem.

Here are some interesting sleep position facts:

1.  The three basic sleeping positions (in order of their popularity) are side, back and stomach with variables to each of these; each position has its own advantages and disadvantages.

2.  Sleep specialists recommend side sleeping for the most restful, uninterrupted sleep.

3.  They do  not recommend stomach sleeping as it could cause lower back and neck pain.

4.  Sleeping in the same position can consistently compress one part of the body.

5.  Sleep studies show that people move anywhere from 3-36 times a night; the average person switches about a dozen times.

6.  Finding the right mattress and using pillows at various locations on and under your body can help you sleep well.

If you are having difficulty finding the most comfortable sleep position, do your research to determine what might help or consult a sleep specialist or physical therapist. Your sleep is too important to not make it the best it can be!

 

Posted 1 year, 2 months ago at 11:21 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 1 year, 5 months ago at 2:27 pm.

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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, 8 months ago at 9:15 am.

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Rock ‘n…..

Sleep! We have all had those times when we are in a hammock or rocking chair and, with it gently swaying, have quickly fallen asleep. It is that same rocking motion that puts our babies to sleep. Researchers have been studying just why the slow swinging makes us go to sleep faster.
A study conducted by the University of Geneva asked 12 adult males with no sleep issues to take 2 45 minute afternoon naps. One nap was on a stationary bed and one on a gently rocking bed (hammock-like). During the naps, their brain activity was monitored.
The results were significant:
• All feel asleep more quickly when rocking
• Most said the nap was more “pleasant” than usual
• Measured brain activity showed an increase in the areas of deeper more restful sleep and more continuous sleep
• All moved more quickly from Stage 1 to Stage 2 sleep which is where more than half of our sleep time is spent
These results are especially important to shift workers as it is very often difficult to fall asleep and to stay asleep. Researchers are now studying the effects of rocking over longer periods of sleep and on those who suffer from insomnia or other sleep issues.

Posted 2 years ago at 9:49 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, 1 month ago at 2:37 pm.

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Testing Your Sleepiness

Do you really know when you are sleepy…too sleepy to drive or perform an activity? This question is front and center as people are getting fewer hours of sleep each night than ever before. Studies show that consistently getting too little sleep poses long term health risks, but do a few nights of little sleep have any impact?

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal details the steps being taken by sleep researchers around the world to develop a test for sleepiness. They are trying to find ways to identify sleepiness in people before they are so impaired that accidents occur. We know that people who are sleepy have decreased attention, slower reaction times and problems learning and processing information. Many people often don’t know how sleepy they are until it is too late. This is especially significant for shift workers who generally get less sleep than day workers.

Some interesting information noted in the article are the results of a 1997 study published in the journal Nature which showed that being awake for 24 hours resulted in the equivalent level of cognitive impairment as having a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.1%. In the U.S., it is illegal for adults to drive with a concentration of .08% or above.

The WSJ reports that researchers are looking for a biomarker, a characteristic or substance, in the body that will indicate if someone is sleepy and if they are, just how sleepy. While actual biological tests are years away, great strides are being made.

Other ways of identifying sleepiness are also being pursued. A professor of applied physics in Finland, Edward Haeggstrom, has noted that balance is impacted by sleepiness; “the longer you have been awake, the more you sway”. Additional research notes the link between sleepiness and eye blinks; the sleepier you are, the slower your eyelids close.

While we know the importance and value of sleep, this research provides the hope that this new information and knowledge can be used in our daily lives as part of our health care regimen, helping us to lead healthier and safer lives.

Posted 2 years, 2 months ago at 11:25 am.

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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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