Monthly Archives: December 2015

Tips for Healthy Eating and Exercising When Working Shifts

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When you’re working a shift schedule, your eating and exercise habits can suffer. People who work shifts sometimes skip meals, eat irregularly, eat unhealthy food, and may find it hard to keep up a regular exercise schedule. Shift workers are at higher risk for weight gain and heart disease as well. Healthy eating and exercise help improve your sleep and your overall health. These ten easy tips can help you stay healthy even with an irregular or shift work schedule.

Have healthy foods readily available at home and at work. People who are sleepy are more likely to reach for unhealthy foods. Stock your kitchen with easy-to-eat raw vegetables (baby carrots, apple slices) and hummus, fruits (bananas, oranges), or a container of raw almonds and raisins (versus a muffin or cookies), so that when you’re tired but hungry, you make healthy food choices. If you like carbs, consider whole grains and “slow burning” foods like brown rice, wild rice, and rolled oats that keep you full and productive for longer stretches.

Prepare meals before your shift, so they’re ready to eat when you get home. Experiment with crock pot meals (which can cook foods over a long period of time) or try freezing portion sizes of your favorite healthy meals for easy access when you don’t have time to cook.
Bring your own food to work. You’re more likely to eat healthily if you pack your own meals rather than eating foods from restaurants, take out counters or vending machines.
Eat small, frequent meals as opposed to large heavy ones. Heavy meals often have more calories than most people need in one sitting. Eating a large portion can also make you feel sluggish or tired while on the job.

Try to eat in line with a regular day (and your circadian rhythm). It’s hard to stick to a regular diet if you eat very late at night or throughout a shift.
Sit down to eat. Pause for meals. Eat at a relaxed pace. Eating on the go or in front of a computer encourages mindless snacking.

Moderate your caffeine consumption. Limit caffeine intake four to five hours before the end of your shift (caffeine stays in your body for many hours) to help your body wind down for home and relaxation.

Drink plenty of fluids. Your body often signals hunger and thirst in the same way. Bring a water bottle to work and fill it often. Not only will you save money on bottled drinks, but you’ll treat your body as well. Infuse your water with fruit or a citrus slice for an added flavor boost without the calories.

Exercise moderately. Try to take walks, walk up and down stairs, or stretch before or after your shift or during your breaks. People who exercise not only burn more calories during the day, but they sleep better as well.

Get the sleep you need. People who sleep the recommended seven to nine hours each day are healthier, fitter, and less likely to suffer from obesity or other health issues than those who don’t sleep well. Remember that you can space out sleep with naps if a single period of rest isn’t possible with your schedule.

8 Tips if You Work the Night Shift

1) Set a Sleeping Goal

Set a goal to sleep eight hours everyday. In the past, it has been easy for me to sleep only 4.5 or five hours, get up to the bathroom, and then be wide awake; only to find it is time to go back to work and I have not slept enough.

There are two habits I am forming which has transformed my life in this area. I have darkened my bedroom more than it was previously darkened. There were little cracks of light seeping through the windows, and I corrected that issue. It is now VERY dark in my room. The second thing I have done is to faithfully take melatonin as soon as I get home. I currently take 4 mg of melatonin, and this has helped the length of time I sleep, tremendously. I use a pharmaceutical grade melatonin, because I want to ensure I am taking a pure formulation. I am also considering darkening my bathroom, so I will not be exposed to the bright light when I get up for a bathroom break.

2) Sunglasses

There were several articles that discussed wearing very dark sunglasses as you leave the place of employment and on the trip home. There has been research to show that once your subject your eyes to the bright morning light, this does something to you body that says “wake up”. So, this is on my to do list, and I will be purchasing this item TODAY!

3) Eat Low Ghlycemic

I already do this. HOWEVER, I was very excited to see this was suggested in several articles. One new piece of information was to have the heavy meal in the evening prior to going on the shift. Do not eat a heavy meal in the middle of the night. Do not eat a heavy breakfast. So, take small low glycemic snacks and eat every three hours. I always have a nutritional shake or bar with me during the night so that I can eat or snack quickly and ensure I am getting good nutrition. (I also lost 35 pounds eating this way). Research has shown that due to several endocrine factors, and increased insulin resistance for night workers, it is very important to learn these concepts. Look for future teleconference and classes on this subject.

4) Breakfast Before Bed

Small balanced breakfast before going to bed. Do not go to bed hungry. AND make sure you eat a meal that is balanced. Don’t just eat fruit. Also, do not eat a heavy meal. This will lay heavy on your stomach, and really make you quite uncomfortable. My favorite is to make a healthy smoothie, making sure I get healthy protein, carbohydrate and fats. A good complex carb with a high fiber content will not overwhelm your stomach, but take a while to digest, and allow you to sleep without having that “Knawing” sensation in your belly.

5) Go Off the Grid

Take the phone off the hook, or place the phone out of your room. DO NOT feel like you have to be available to the phone just because someone calls. You may be concerned with missing emergency calls. Work out another system. With a TRUE emergency, someone will come and knock on your window, or bedroom door.

6) White Noise

I have also read many papers on background noise. I sleep with a “spa” type machine that plays a “rain” type sound. A bedside air filter will do the same thing. This not only drowns out any noise that is going on in the house and neighborhood, but it relaxes my mind. This is a MUST HAVE for anyone working night shift.

7) Work Out

Mild to moderate exercise, before you go to work. At the end of the shift, it can get you pumping, and ready to be awake instead of getting ready for sleep.

8) Watch What You Eat

Another point on nutrition. Find a good pharmaceutical grade multivitamin and antioxidant. Even if you eat EVERYTHING raw, and natural, I totally believe the body needs something to fill in all nutritional gaps. There are too many external factors today that comes against our bodies causing free radicals. I have heard people say from time to time they don’t take vitamins because they don’t want expensive pee. Honestly, the body knows what it has need of on a day to day basis.

What I may not need one day, I may need the next. How do you really know? I take extra vitamin D. Research has shown one of the risk categories for Vitamin D deficiency is to work night shift. We just don’t get enough natural sun. I take my vitamins at least twice per day, and I also take a very high grade product. Really, if you take your health seriously, why not invest in something that is going to really give you the bang for your buck?

Top 10 Tips on Surviving Nightshift

tumblr_inline_mpr5ckPkba1qz4rgpGoing onto nightshift

1. Try to do something physical “the day before the day before”. Physical activity is good for your general wellbeing anyway, and it will set you up for a decent “pre-nightshift” sleep. I would go swimming, running, boxing or have a mega-housework blitz. Then get a decent amount of sleep prior to starting nights:

  • Method 1: Stay up really late (at least 3am – 6am) the night before (calling/Skyping mates in different timezones or a TV marathon can help) then sleep for the majority of the day before your first nightshift.
  • Method 2: Go to bed as usual the night before , sleep in until late morning, have a big feed for lunch then go back to sleep for an afternoon/evening nap.
    On nightshifts

2. Drink water and eat food (bring real food, not just junk, and a big water bottle that you can reach for when you are writing notes). Drinking enough water is my absolute number one piece of advice. It’s hard to be high functioning when you are symptomatically dehydrated. (Same goes for a BSL of 1.8!)

3. Just like with day shift, caffeinating during the second half of your shift reduces your chance of sleeping when you get home. Plan your caffeine. Eg. bring a big plunger and invest in decent Peruvian coffee to have on arrival during handover, and at the halfway mark of the shift. (Sharing means your whole night team runs smoother & happier too!)

Between nightshifts

4. If you suddenly realise you are too tired to drive home, DON’T. Get a taxi or phone a friend. We don’t need any more post-nightshift road trauma (ask your seniors and they will all know of past incidents, one more is one too many).

5. Your body reacts to sunlight. Wear dark glasses home, and invest in cut-out curtains; or an eye mask. Avoid artificial light – constantly checking your phone or iPad because you can’t sleep will make it worse.

6. Most of us use noise (alarms) to wake up. So, if you need to sleep, invest in ear plugs.

7. Don’t use alcohol to help you sleep. It is a sleep inducer but it will disrupt your REM sleep which impacts on how rested and functional you are on waking.

8. Don’t commit to things during the day because daytime people expect you to – you are living their life in reverse. Eg: Delivery service*: “So, you’re on nights, you’ll be home during the day, we can deliver at 3pm.” Me: “So, when you’re on dayshifts, do you plan to wake up at 3am to let random people into your house?” [*insert “Rellies inviting you to lunch, a course from 9am -5pm, friends wanting a shopping date” etc]

Turning around

9. There are many turnaround styles to consider. Just make sure you get the amount of sleep you need before you go on to do other higher functioning after your nights.

  • Method 1: After post-nights breakfast, go home and have a four hour nap eg 10am-2pm. Potter about and get some daylight exposure, then go to bed at your usual time.
  • Method 2: Sleep for 36 hours (all day and all night). Have a glass of water, some carbs like crackers by the bed and a clear path between the bed and the loo. Consider DVT prophylaxis.

10. DO make sure you make the time and headspace for Post-Nights Breakfast. Critical Care rosters lend themselves to this and I’d argue that in any teams that do a round of nights together, this is an incredibly useful space to wind down; congratulate one another and reflect on ways to improve. I make a point of having a debrief, called “The Ceremonial Airing of Grievances”. Homer (Simpson) has a lot to teach us. Venting prevents explosion. Use the formal positive critique/Pendleton’s model/the “hashtag rant” – just make sure everyone on the team can identify any painful experiences, reflect on how awesome they are; and work out how to be more awesomer next time.

3 Tips for Parents to Discuss Prom Safety with Teens

1. Initiate the conversation: Hopefully by the time a teen is gearing up for prom, parents have already talked with him or her about subjects such as drinking and sex, says Lyness. A conversation about prom safety is an important follow-up, she adds.

Parents could start by noting the excitement of prom and how they want their kids to have fun, Lyness says, then transition with something such as: “Prom is also a time when there’s a lot of peer pressure to do things, like lose your virginity, or drink, or do drugs, or stay up all night … I want you to have a great time, I want you to have fun, and I want you to be safe.”

Lyness discourages parents from trying to squeeze this conversation into a busy prom-day schedule. Parents and teens should discuss prom safety a few days in advance, she says, with possibly a small reminder on the day of the dance.

2. Make a safety plan: Parents and teens should discuss what to do in various situations that may arise, Lyness suggests. Consider scenarios such as someone bringing alcohol to the dance, or a friend driving dangerously, perhaps while drinking or texting. Teens who are prepared for these situations will be better able to handle them if they happen, Lyness says.

Teens must know that they can and should call parents if they’re in an unsafe situation, Lyness notes, and the parents should be ready to answer the call.

“Sometimes parents and teens set up a little code call, in which a teen doesn’t have to say ‘come get me—my ride is drinking,'” Lyness says. Teens can call parents and say a simple, agreed-upon phrase that will cue parents to pick them up.

Parents should also set a clear curfew for the teen and establish times when he or she should call home to check in, Lyness says.

3. Watch the tone: Throughout the talk, Lyness says, “It can help when parents give a lot of credit to their teen, so it’s not a conversation where you’re talking down to them.”

Lyness suggests parents begin with, “I know you know these things already, but I think it’s a good idea to review them.”

It can be tough to find a balanced approach. Parents shouldn’t lecture or scare teens with gloom-and-doom possibilities, she says, but they also shouldn’t be too “friendly” with teens by letting them call the shots on their special night.

“The middle ground is where you exercise your parental responsibility of declaring firm, clear guidelines in a caring way,” Lyness says. “Not punitive, not harsh, [but] positive expectations.”