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[shiftworker online]

January / February 1998
Issue 1
Shiftworker Online

News Headlines. Canada.  USA.
Current Scores.
from USA Today.
Laugh of the Day.
from Reader's Digest.
Book of the Month.
When the Sleeper Wakes, H.G. Wells.
Enter a Room.
Main
Break
Circadian
Dolphin
Effects
History
Links
Me
Scheduling
Sleep

Happy New Year !!! 1998

This is the first issue of the Shift Worker. I will be putting out a new edition every two months.
Each will cover additional information to help the shift worker.
You will also find in the left column links to current news, sports and other features.
I hope you have a great, 98.

In this issue:

Insomnia and the Shift Worker

Eat Right, Sleep Tight

Yummy, Yummy for my Tummy


Insomnia and the Shift Worker

When you look at what insomnia is and it's characteristics, you can see that a shift worker faces an uphill battle in dealing with insomnia.

What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a combination of inadequate and poor quality sleep that can be characterized as:
- difficulty falling asleep.
- unrefreshing sleep.
- waking up frequently during the night, (or the day for shift workers) with difficulty returning to sleep.
- waking up too early in the morning, (or early afternoon if you are on night shift).

Insomnia can cause problems such as irritability, tiredness, low concentration and a lack of energy.

Types of Insomnia
There are three types of insomnia:
1. Transient (short term) insomnia - this is characterized as lasting from one night to a few weeks.
2. Intermittent(on and off) insomnia - insomnia occurs from time to time.
3. Chronic (constant) insomnia - insomnia occurs on most nights and lasts a month or more.
        As shift workers we face having chronic insomnia due to the constant disruption in our sleep/wake cycle.

The Causes of Insomnia
- advanced age (insomnia occurs more frequently in those over 60).
- a history of depression.
- female gender. (Insomnia is found in both males and females but studies show it to be more common in females.)

Some causes of Transient or Intermittent Insomnia can be:
- stress.
- environmental noise.
- extreme temperatures.
- change in the surrounding environment.
- sleep/wake schedule problems such as those due to jet lag.
- medication side effects.
These transient or intermittent causes are usually of a short term duration but when these are combined with the effects of shift work they can increase the problem of insomnia.

Some of the causes of Chronic Insomnia:
- physical disorders.(Such as arthritis, kidney disease, asthma, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and restless leg syndrome.
- mental disorders such as depression. (This is one of the most common causes.)
- chronic stress.
- disrupted sleep/wake cycles as may occur with shift work or other nighttime activities.
There are also things that we do that have been shown to perpetuate insomnia such as:
- expecting to have difficulty sleeping and worrying about it. (How often does this happen, when we know we have a busy day ahead of us and need sleep and keep worrying we won't get enough sleep and as a result stay awake.)
- ingesting excessive amounts of caffeine.
- drinking alcohol before bedtime.
- smoking cigarettes before bedtime.
- excessive napping in the afternoon or evening.
- irregular or continually disrupted sleep/wake schedules. (Can't do much here if your a shift worker.)

Treatment of Insomnia
There may not be a need for treatment of transient and intermittent insomnia, as these are of short duration and some behavioral changes can cure these. The use of over-the-counter sleep medicines are usually not recommended.
Chronic insomnia is more complicated. Treatment consists of:
- diagnosing and treating underlying medical or psychological problems.
- identifying behaviors that may worsen insomnia and stopping (or reducing) them.
- the possible use of sleeping pills. (The long term use of sleeping pills for chronic insomnia is controversial as a person can become addicted to the medication. They must be closely supervised by a physician.)
- using behavioral techniques to improve sleep, such as reconditioning, relaxation therapy and sleep restriction therapy.
Examples of this are:
Reconditioning - associate the bed and bedtime with sleep. Don't use the bed for anything but sleep and sex. Go to bed only when sleepy and if unable to fall asleep get up and return to bed only when sleepy. It is recommended the person avoid naps and wake up and go to bed the same time each day. In this way the body will be conditioned to associate bedtime with sleep. This is a frustration for shift workers as a person cannot go to bed at the same time each night.
Relaxation Therapy - there are techniques a person can use to reduce anxiety and body tension. Exercise is one technique that can help in this manner.
Sleep Restriction Therapy - - this program allows for at first only a few hours of sleep during the night with the time being gradually increased until a closer to normal sleep period is achieved. This again cannot be fully utilized by a shift worker.

Working shift work does not always constitute chronic insomnia. For many, myself included, it would be classified as intermittent insomnia. Sleep returns to a fairly normal state when on day shift or time off. For some, sleep becomes a problem no matter what shift they are on. I have worked with individuals that have problems sleeping regardless of what shift they are on and are constantly fatigued. They have a form of chronic insomnia and it can become a serious problem.
For the shift worker, many solutions mentioned above can not be adapted because of the constant rotation. Although using relaxation techniques will always be a benefit.

Insomnia information was based on the National Institute of Health's publication #95-3801(Facts About Insomnia).


Eat Right, Sleep Tight

Eating the proper foods is very important for the shift worker. Eating the proper food will give a person extra energy, restfulness and also result in weight maintenance.

It is important to include varieties of fruits and vegetables in your diet every day. It is also important to also eat high fibre foods such as dates, bananas, dried figs, pears, raisins, whole wheat bread and other bran products.

To intensify alertness on night shift it is advised to eat proteins such as meat, fish, fowl and dairy products.

To allow for restful sleep eat carbohydrates such as breads, cereals and pastas.

I find that eating a bagel or piece of toast before bed after a night shift helps my sleep. This prevents me from waking too early because of hunger . It is important also not to drink fluid immediately before bed.

By following some of these tips you may find you are not only eating better but also sleeping better.


Yummy, Yummy for my Tummy

I love deserts and here is a low fat recipe for Oatmeal - Raisin "Night Shift Blinder" Cookies.

First get two mixing bowls - 1 large, 1 medium.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Place in the medium bowl the following ingredients:
- 2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
Mix these ingredients well.

Place in the large bowl the following ingredients:
- 1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
- 1/3 cup of reduced fat butter or "normal" margarine
- 1/4 cup of buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla
Use an electric mixer on low speed for 2 minutes until ingredients are well blended.

Add the ingredients in the medium bowl to the large bowl and stir until the dry ingredients are moist.
Now stir in a 1/2 cup of raisins.

Take the dough and form 16 one and a half inch balls.
Place 2 inches apart on a large cookie sheet.
Flatten cookies using the back of a wet spoon until they are about 1/4 inch in thickness.
Bake cookies for 13 - 14 minutes. Remove cookies when the bottom is golden brown and the tops are dry to the touch.
Remove cookies from tray immediately and let them cool down.

Last but not least!!!
Eat and Enjoy.

Oh, just in case you are wondering about the name "Night Shift Blinder" Cookies.
Well, if you place one cookie over each eye, they make great shields against the bright lights while working nights.

Bye, for now.

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If you have any comments or questions,
Please E-MAIL me at rlaird@ican.net