Posted by: suzannern | May 4, 2010

Waging War Against Sleep Deprivation, Part I

“It’s remarkable how little we actually know about sleep and its relation to the body, but we’re learning; It’s a complex area to investigate, but the opportunities to dig deeper into how sleep relates to health and physical activity are excellent.”
~William G. Herbert, Ph.D.

Things have been a bit hectic around here so I haven’t had much time to post. But in light of my life and my motivation to remain as healthy as possible, I decided to do my next post about my biggest hindrance to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Working the night shift for the past three years has been hard on both my body and mind. In fact, I have not “gotten used” to working nights at all. It has had a cumulative effect and I find it much more challenging to eat healthy and maintain a workout routine now versus three years ago.

The risks of sleep deprivation and ways to cope with the fatigue, excessive hunger and other unhealthy consequences from this lifestyle are something I am always striving to overcome. So this post is not only for me, but for all of you out there who work nights or are sleep deprived in some other way.

In short, research has shown that sleep deprivation can:

– lower a woman’s glucose tolerance, increase her blood pressure, interfere with her ability to concentrate and contribute to excess drinking (source).

-lead to an increased risk of hypertension in women (source).

-alter the regulation of the body’s processes, including appetite and metabolism. Lack of sleep can throw these processes off balance, and may lead to overeating, and in turn, gradual weight gain over time (source).

– increase the risk of colon and breast cancer (source).

-worsen symptoms of depression (source).

Personally, I notice that when I have worked 2-3 night shifts in a row, and have had little sleep in-between, I am fatigued, short-tempered, have an intense craving for sugar and carbs. I tend to forget things very easily. I have even had “black-outs” in which I forget entire conversations I have with people. It’s amazing I have not gotten into a car accident driving to evening classes over the past three years.

Thankfully, starting this June, I will be working more day shifts. I will still be working some nights however and I hope to utilize whatever resources I have to fight the side effects of the graveyard shift.

While they are very simple, these are the top three suggestions I have found…(and trust me, they can be a challenge):

Packing healthy snack alternatives.

Picture Source.

Keeping hydrated with water and tea.

(Picture Source)

Exercise before going into work (as exercise tends to give you an energy boost too).

Picture Source.

Funny… I could work on all three of these suggestions!!

~I usually exercise when I leave work in the morning and plan on incorporating some exercise before heading into the night shift to see if this changes my energy level.

~When I first began working the night shift, I always brought a snack and breakfast with me. For some reason I stopped that habit and tend to munch on food on the unit. Time to stop mooching and bring fruit, veggies, yogurt and tea.

Encouraging stories?

Please share your experiences!

… to be continued…



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