Working Nights

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

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 19 hours, 49 minutes ago at 1:59 pm.

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The Benefits of Green Tea

Green tea may prove to be the solution to a number of the health issues faced by many people, especially shift workers.  Thousands of studies over the last 20 years have described its benefits. Dr. Christopher Ochner, a research scientist in nutrition at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, says “Green tea is beyond a super food.”  This is because it contains an abundance of catechins which are antioxidants that fight and may even prevent cell damage.

Drinking green tea helps the heart and brain, keeps blood sugar stable (diabetes), reduces stress and can increase and even change your metabolism to aid in weight loss. Wow! To learn more and to read the entire article, go to WebMD

Posted 7 months, 2 weeks ago at 10:30 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 1 year ago at 12:25 pm.

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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, 3 months ago at 11:54 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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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, 5 months ago at 2:24 pm.

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Seratonin Levels Feed Anger

Many studies have shown that low levels of serotonin are also associated with anger, depression and anxiety. Fluctuations of serotonin levels in the brain, which often occur when someone hasn’t eaten or is feeling stressed, affect brain regions that enable people to regulate anger. So when stressed or hungry, people are often unable to manage their anger. This is especially relevant to shift workers as the stress of working outside regular daytime hours is significant and good eating habits of shift workers are often lacking (self-reported). A new study published September 15, 2011 in the journal Biological Psychiatry has shown that individuals who might be predisposed to aggression were the most sensitive to changes in serotonin depletion.


Do you Learn from your Mistakes?

People who think they will learn from their mistakes have a different brain reaction to mistakes than people who think intelligence is fixed. Jason S. Moser, of Michigan State University, who collaborated on a new study, found that people who think intelligence is malleable say things like, “When the going gets tough, I put in more effort” or “If I make a mistake, I try to learn and figure it out.” On the other hand, people who think that they can’t get smarter will not take opportunities to learn from their mistakes. People who think they can learn from their mistakes did better after making a mistake; they successfully bounced back after an error. Their brains also reacted differently, producing a bigger second signal, the one that says “I see that I’ve made a mistake, so I should pay more attention” Moser says.


Dealing with People on a Power Trip?

Individuals in roles that possess power but lack status have a tendency to engage in activities that demean others. The experiment demonstrated that “individuals in high-power/low-status roles chose more demeaning activities for their partners than did those in any other combination of power and status roles.” It feels bad to be in a low status position and the power that goes with that role gives these workers a way to take action on those negative feelings.
©2011 Circadian Age, Inc. ‘Working Nights’

Posted 2 years, 12 months ago at 9:52 am.

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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, 9 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)Â

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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.

 

Laughter is good for preventing heart disease.  People with heart disease were 40 percent less likely to laugh in a variety of situations when compared to people of the same age without heart disease.  In this study, researchers from University of Maryland School of Medicine surveyed 300 people. Half did not suffer from heart disease while half had either suffered a heart attack or undergone coronary artery bypass surgery. The survey questionnaires included multiple-choice questions to see how much or how little people laughed in certain situations, and to measure anger and hostility.  The most significant finding from the study was that people with heart disease responded less humorously to everyday life situations. They generally laughed less, even in positive situations, and they displayed more anger and hostility.

As adults, we laugh about 35 times an hour during conversations with either friends or strangers.* When we laugh, 15 facial muscles contract, stimulating the zygomatic major muscle, causing your upper lip to lift up. The respiratory system is impacted so that air intake occurs irregularly, making you gasp. In extreme circumstances, tear ducts are activated, so that while the mouth is opening and closing and the struggle for oxygen intake continues, the face becomes moist and often red or purple. We may giggle or laugh out loud.

While many of us may laugh at a joke during a good movie or television show, the truth is that most of us laugh as a result of human interaction.  Have less interaction with others?  You’re likely to laugh less…..and this brings us to shift workers.  When working nights and sleeping days, it can be difficult to find time to see other people.  But, it’s important to keep a social life. Laughter connects us with others. A good laugh reduces stress and tension and takes our focus away from negative feeling, such as anger and guilt.  It’s healthier to laugh with friends and co-workers about life’s frustrations, rather than complaining about them.  Laughter is contagious.

Most importantly, remember:

Never be afraid to laugh at yourself, after all, you could be missing out on the joke of the century.

-  Dame Edna

*Do Children Laugh Much More than Adults?  Rod A. Martin. Downloaded on May 13, 2010 from http://www.aath.org/articles/art_martin.html.

©Circadian Age, Inc.˜Working Nights”

Posted 4 years, 4 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, 5 months ago at 1:12 pm.

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This Emotional Life – Following up on “Stumbling on Happiness”

Daniel Gilbert, professor at Harvard and best selling author of “Stumbling on Happiness,” hosts this PBS show, This Emotional Life, starting Monday, January 4th.  The show will explore ways to improve social relationships, cope with emotional issues, and become more positive and resilient as individuals.

Many people from all walks of life are profiled, including every day moms, dads, and workers, and famous people like Katie Couric and Richard Gere.  If you have to work when the show is aired, you can  either tape it at home, or purchase the series at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=3914596.

In Stumbling on Happiness, Gilbert shares with us facts about the way our mind works.  Gilbert, a Harvard University Psychology professor, is particularily interested in the shortcomings of our imaginations.  He says we’re much too accepting of the conclusions of our imaginations.  He notes that our imaginations are really bad at telling us how we will think when the future finally comes. And our personal experiences aren’t nearly as good at correcting these errors as we thing they are.

Watch the TV preview right here!

 

 

Dan Shapiro PBS Trailer

Posted 4 years, 9 months ago at 3:15 pm.

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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, 9 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. tThe book’s authors state on the home page of their website that our brains make 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, 9 months ago at 9:40 pm.

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WSJ Covers Heart Risk at Work and Seasonal Affective Disorder

There were two articles in the Wall Street Journal today that are significant to shift workers. One story is about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and the other’s about a new study reporting that men who didn’t confront colleagues or bosses who treated them unfairly doubled their risk of heart attack.

Seasonal Affective Disorder: the article states that SAD affects an estimated 6% of Americans, causing depression, lethargy, irritability and a desire to avoid social situations. It can also create an urge to overeat, particularly carbohydrates. As many as 15% of people in the U.S. may have a milder version that includes only some of these symptoms. What the article leaves out, that all shift workers know, is that SAD symptoms are routinely felt by workers at jobs outside the normal day-time hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. See more about this in our articles on Vitamin D and Serotonin.

Reducing Heart Risk with Confrontation: the lead researcher from Stockholm University and her research partners asked 2,755 men how they typically responded to unfair treatment at work. Those who said they just let it pass and said/did nothing had significantly more heart attacks during the next ten years. After adjusting for age, socio-economic factors, risk behaviors, job strain, and biological risk factors, the risk of heart and death from a cardiovascular event was 2.3 times greater than it was for those who said they confronted those treating them unfairly. Read more about how shift workers can manage stress on the job and about controlling bullying at work.

To read the two Wall Street Journal articles:

Seasonal Affective Disorder
Reducing Heart Risk with Confrontation

©2009Circadian Age, Inc.˜Working Nights”

Posted 4 years, 10 months ago at 10:27 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, 10 months ago at 11:18 pm.

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Happy Thanksgiving from Working Nights – an Idea for Getting Through Dinner!

Holiday dinners with family can be easily ruined. A political debate might erupt at the table over health care reform, Obama’s job rating, or how people feel about Sarah Palin. Perhaps a new husband or wife isn’t liked, so half the table ignores them while the other goes overboard to make them feel comfortable. Some people actually have the nerve to state that they don’t like the food, right in front of the chef. Maybe someone has dietary issues so the ingredients of every dish have to be reviewed before they take a bite. How about the nurse or firefighter who worked the entire night before and can’t stay awake at the table or has a short fuse as a result of being tired? There might be sadness over a recent death or heartbreak from missing someone who’s overseas with the military. What about those screaming kids banging their silverware on the crystal stemware or china plates? Sometimes you wish you’d stayed home.

Here’s a new holiday dinner sanity idea.
Read this article…

Posted 4 years, 10 months ago at 11:32 am.

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