Working Nights

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

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 2 days, 18 hours 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 1 month 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 7 months, 1 week ago at 9:30 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 1 year, 4 months ago at 11:34 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, 5 months ago at 12:25 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 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 1 year, 7 months ago at 11:27 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, 8 months ago at 4:00 pm.

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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 1 year, 9 months ago at 11:18 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 2½ 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 2 years, 5 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 2 years, 6 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, 11 months ago at 9:49 am.

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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, 12 months ago at 11:09 am.

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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 5 years, 2 months ago at 10:12 am.

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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 5 years, 3 months ago at 8:20 pm.

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Families and Friends of Shift Workers – How to Help

Shift work can cause difficulty creating and maintaining relationships, and often it’s hard for others to realize special challenges shift workers face. However, shift work is by no means a personal issue. Over 55 million Americans work nonstandard work schedules so that up to 150 million people are directly impacted by shift work schedules, based on US census statistics of household size. But shift work does not only affect the immediate family, but also the neighbors that get called in to babysit, the grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles that might not get to see their relatives who work on holidays, the friends who want to hang out on nights and weekends- everyone who wants to support the shift worker as much as they can. This article helps anyone who has someone who works shift work in their lives. Read this article…

Posted 6 years ago at 12:08 pm.

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