Tag Archives: shiftwork

Top 10 Online Influencers Helping America Sleep Better

It was a good morning to open my inbox and see that I’ve been named one of ‘The Top 10 Online Influencers Helping America Sleep Better’ by SharecareNow.  See their announcement here  http://www.sharecare.com/static/sharecare-now-shift-work-sleep-disorder

There are some great resources among this list for people wanting healthy sleep and it’s many benefits. Here’s a run-down of the Top 10, with the links to their sites. Enjoy!

How to Handle Shiftwork Well

You can learn to handle shiftwork as well as possible.  Here’s a few beginning steps:

  1. Educate your family or roommates about what you’ll need to sleep well.  This includes quiet without interruptions during your sleep time, a dark and cool room, and as regular a schedule as possible.  Sometimes family members are eager to see you and share their news.  When setting a sleep schedule, also schedule a predictable time that you’ll be available to them.
  2. Make your sleep schedule as consistent as possible over the entire week.
  3. If possible, take a short nap during the middle of your shift.  Be cautious to become fully alert before performing your job duties.
  4. Use caffeine strategically.  Caffeine is more effective as a stimulant if you don’t use it much.  During the night shift, take a serving of caffeine at the time when your alertness starts to dip.  The caffeine will take effect in about 20 minutes, and does improve measures of performance.  Be cautious not to take it so close to bedtime that it interferes with falling asleep.
  5. Limit light exposure on the commute home by taking public transit and wearing blue light blocking sunglasses.

With these strategies, shiftwork should be easier.  A special thanks goes out to all those folks who work nights, keeping the rest of us safe.

The Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine focuses on natural care for sleep problems, including shiftwork.  More information is at www.naturalsleepmedicine.net.

Lessen the Effects of Shiftwork

About 20% of Americans do shiftwork, starting work either in the late afternoon or in the middle of the night.  Their health suffers, and their relationships can suffer too.  If you are on a shiftwork schedule, here are some strategies to manage the shiftwork lifestyle well.

– First, establish a wake / sleep schedule that you can maintain most days of the week.  Try to have some of your sleep hours the same, regardless of whether it is a work day or day off.

– Shiftworkers typically get less sleep than those who work during the day.  Adjust your schedule to allow enough sleep time, close to 8 hours each night is probably needed.

– To help you sleep those hours, make your bedroom ideal for sleeping.  It needs to be cool, dark, relatively quiet, no pets, and no lit clocks.  If you are trying to sleep during the day this can take more effort, but it will be worth it.  Get blackout shades, or use an eyecover.  Keep a fan running softly or earplugs to keep it quiet.  Train your pets that you are not available during your sleep time.  Set the alarm to wake you up, and then ignore the time, allowing yourself to be ‘off duty.’

In our 24 hour society people will need to work at all hours.  With a thoughtful strategy working shifts can be easier.

At The Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine, Dr. Darley provides care for people of all ages who have sleep problems. More at http://www.naturalsleepmedicine.net/

Shiftwork and Your Health

High numbers of people in America do shiftwork – 20% of those who are employed. One definition of shiftwork is starting work after 6pm, and before 6am. “Swing shift” which often starts around 3-4pm is also included in some definitions of shiftwork. Whichever definition you use, it is clear that the health of people who do shiftwork suffers.

Shiftworkers experience symptoms such as stomach upset, moodiness, high blood pressure and elevated stress hormones. In the long term these employees also have higher rates of breast and colon cancer in women, and prostate cancer in men.   These problems are thought to be due to the fact that shiftworkers are awake and engaged during a time that our body clock and circadian rhythm are programmed to be asleep.

Although these symptoms and conditions are concerning, it’s clear that some industries must work around the clock. Especially industries such as public safety, healthcare, and transportation. Fortunately there are ways in which the negative effects of shiftwork can be minimized. Check back on Friday for info on how to lessen these effects.

At The Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine, Dr. Darley provides care for people of all ages who have sleep problems. More at http://www.naturalsleepmedicine.net/

Sleep and Cancer

In honor of October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, let’s look at the connection between sleep and cancer. This is a complex issue, as getting poor sleep increases the risk of cancer, and sleep in cancer patients is disturbed. Let’s look at each situation more closely.

Poor Sleep Increases the Risk of Cancer
In the last ten years research has been done looking at the life-long sleep histories of breast cancer patients. It’s been found that being awake at night (usually for shift work) increases the risk of developing cancer. This is thought to be because the light suppresses melatonin, which is highest during the dark night. In turn, when melatonin is low estrogen levels are increased, thus increasing risk of breast cancer. Colo-rectal cancer is also increased in women who have done shift work for 15 years or more. In addition to melatonin, cortisol patterns are irregular when a person is not sleeping well. Cortisol is important for our immune system.

It’s not only shift workers who suffer increased risk of cancer. Among physically active women, those who sleep less than 7 hours per night have a 47% increased risk of cancer compared to those who sleep more.

Sleep in Cancer Patients is Disrupted
Cancer patients experience sleep problems at a high rate. About 30-50% have insomnia, which worsens with repeat courses of chemotherapy. They also experience irregular sleep-wake patterns.