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6 Signs You’re Suffering From Shift Work Disorder (SWD)

6 Signs You’re Suffering From Shift Work Disorder (SWD)

If you are in healthcare, IT, security, manufacturing or in the hospitality or entertainment field, you may have to work shifts. You are just one of the 15 million Americans who do so. Early morning, late night, rotating shifts and overnight shifts are usually the ones that cause most problems.

The main issue is that if you have not adjusted to these crazy working hours, your health and relationships may suffer. Statistics show that 25% of shift workers are suffering from shift work disorder (SWD). Difficulties arise when your circadian rhythms which govern your sleep- wake cycle are out of sync. Here are 7 signs to look out for.

1. You feel excessively sleepy on the job.

Because your body clock has not adjusted to the new timetable, you feel terribly sleepy on the job and you may nod off. This is risky for safety and security reasons and will also affect productivity.

If you are lucky enough to work for a progressive company like Google, you may have the facility just to take a snooze in one of their nap rooms.

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If you are operating machinery or looking after an intensive care patient, this is obviously not an option! The best solution is to talk to your doctor. Some shift workers have found it beneficial to take modafinil or provigil as they seem to help to keep the brain alert.

2. Your sleep may be disturbed.

The other side of the coin is that when you finally get to sleep, you may wake up at odd hours, your sleep is restless and you wake up not feeling refreshed.

Your doctor can help you by asking you to keep a sleep journal so that there is a record of when, how long and how you feel when you wake up. There is also the actigraphy test which consists of wearing a device on your wrist which will monitor your sleep- wake cycle. The doctor can then prescribe some sleeping aids based on these results.

Another practical solution is to make sure you sleep in a completely dark and quiet environment. It also helps to wear dark wraparound glasses on your return home during the daylight after a night shift. This may help you to get some more restful sleep.

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3. You may be frequently ill.

If you are getting a lot of colds, flu and other illnesses, it could be a sign of SWD. Medical research shows that the melatonin, which is a hormone to help us get to sleep when darkness falls, is a great health booster. It protects the immune system and can also help you to keep a normal weight.

Another reason is that our normal daily rhythms affect blood pressure, endocrine systems, appetite and digestion. Shift work plays havoc with these rhythms and puts basic functions at risk.

The Health Survey for England research shows that shift workers are more often ill and have weight issues. Around half of them have diabetes, chronic back pain and other lung conditions which is considerably higher than the rest of the population.

The best way to resolve this issue is to get plenty of exercise and eat a healthy diet, rather than fast food. It is also wise to cut back on coffee and alcohol.

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4. You may have problems with social and family life.

As if it was not enough to have your sleep-wake cycle out of sync, you have a similar problem with your family and personal relationships. It seems almost impossible to fit in family events and social outings. You or your partner and children may feel loneliness and a certain sense of isolation. There are very few facilities for childcare for shiftworker families.

A way around this problem is to plan well ahead so that important events are not missed. Get the support of family and friends to help you make the most of the little time you have with them. As they are not on shift work themselves, it may be easier for them to be more flexible.

5. You may be often exhausted.

In spite of some recommendations laid down by employee unions, some companies insist on a quick return when there is a change of shifts. This often means that there is not enough rest time.

Now, most organizations have rules in place so that there is at least a rest period of 24 hours before the next set of rotation shifts. Doctors recommend taking a nap of 15-20 minutes whenever you can during your rest period and also just before starting work.

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This, they feel, will help to reduce your chances of suffering from SWD.

6. You may be emotionally drained.

If you are a fire fighter, police officer or a nurse in a psychiatric care unit, you are bound to be stressed out at times. It is no surprise that this will leave you emotionally drained. You simply cannot help around the house and this may lead to irritability, depression and anxiety.

The fact that some care units are considering 12 hour shifts is alarming if there is insufficient rest time, for example, 2 days on, 2 days off. One solution is to make sure you have things to look forward to and plan accordingly. Companies could also do their part by minimizing stress for their employees.

A happier family will certainly produce a more productive worker.

Let us know in the comments how you cope with shift work and still remain human!

Featured photo credit: Day sleeper…night shift worker/osseous via flickr.com

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Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on November 11, 2019

How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

Have you ever noticed that some people are able to effortlessly remember even the most mundane details and quickly comprehend new things? Well, you can too!

To unlock the full potential of your brain, you need to keep it active and acute. Wasting time on your couch watching mindless television shows or scrolling through facebook is not going to help.

Besides getting out flashcards, what can you do to help remember things better and learn new things more quickly? Check out these 10 effective ways on how to improve memory:

1. Exercise and Get Your Body Moving

Exercising doesn’t just exercise the body, it also helps to exercise your brain. Obesity and the myriad of diseases that eventually set in as a result of being overweight can cause serious harm to the brain.

Furthermore, without regular exercise, plaque starts to build up in your arteries, and your blood vessels begin to lose the ability to effectively pump blood. Plaque buildup leads to heart attacks and it also reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients that your blood carries to your brain. When the nutrients don’t make it there, the brain’s ability to function is compromised.

To prevent this from happening, make sure you get moving every day. Even if it’s just a brisk walk, it’ll help you maintain and increase your mental acuity. Brisk walking, swimming and dancing are all excellent activities. Take a look at these 5 Ways to Find Time for Exercise.

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2. Eliminate Stressors and Seek Help If You’re Depressed

Anything that causes you major stress, like anger or anxiety, will in time begin to eat away the parts of your brain that are responsible for memory. Amongst the most brain-damaging stressors is depression, which is actually often misdiagnosed a a memory problem since one of its primary symptoms is the inability to concentrate.

If you can’t concentrate, then you might feel like you are constantly forgetting things. Depression increases the levels of cortisol in your bloodstream which elevates the cortisol levels in the brain. Doctors have found that increased cortisol diminishes certain areas of the brain, especially the hippocampus which is where short-term memories are stored.

Prolonged depression can thus destroy your brain’s ability to remember anything new. Seek professional help to combat your depression – your brain will thank you.

3. Get a Good Night’s Sleep and Take Naps

Getting a consistent 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night will increase your memory. During sleep, the brain firms up memories of recently acquired information.

Getting enough sleep will help you get through the full spectrum of nocturnal cycles that are essential to optimal brain and body functioning during the waking hours. Taking a nap throughout the day, especially after learning something new, can also help you to retain those memories as well as recharge your brain and keep it sharper longer.

4. Feed Your Brain

Fifty to sixty percent of the brain’s overall weight is pure fat, which is used to insulate its billions of nerve cells. The better insulated a cell is, the faster it can send messages and the quicker you will be thinking.

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This is precisely why parents are advised to feed their young children whole milk and to restrict dieting – their brains’ need fat to grow and work properly. Skimping on fats can be devastating even to the adult brain.

Thus, eating foods that contain a healthy mix of fats is vital for long-term memory. Some excellent food choices include fish (especially anchovies, mackerel and wild salmon) and dark leafy green vegetables. Here’re more brain food choices: 12 Foods that Can Improve Your Brain Power

Deep-fried foods obviously contain fat but their lack of nutritional value is not going to help your brain or your body, so think healthy foods and fats.

5. Eat Breakfast and Make Sure It Includes an Egg

According to Larry McCleary, M.D., author of  The Brain Trust Program, an egg is the ideal breakfast. Eggs contain B vitamins which help nerve cells to burn glucose, antioxidants that protect neurons against damage; and omega-3 fatty acids that keep nerve cells firing at optimal speed.

Other foods to add to your breakfast include fruits, veggies and lean proteins. Avoid trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. Trans fats diminish the brain cells’ ability to communicate with each other and HFCS can actually shrink the brain by damaging cells.

Having a healthy breakfast in the morning has been shown to improve performance throughout the day. If you’re too busy to have a healthy breakfast, this maybe just right for you: 33 Quick And Healthy Breakfasts For Busy Mornings

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6. Write it Down

If there’s something you want to remember, writing it down can help.

It may sound like a no-brainer, but do you really know why? Writing it down creates oxygenated blood flow to areas of your brain that a responsible for your memories and literally exercises those parts of it. Here’s How Writing Things Down Can Change Your Life.

You can start a journal, write yourself emails or even start keeping a blog – all of these activities will help to improve your capacity to remember and memorize information.

7. Listen to Music

Research shows that certain types of music are very helpful in recalling memories. Information that is learned while listening to a particular song or collection can often be recalled by thinking of the song or “playing” it mentally. Songs and music can serve as cues for pulling up particular memories.

8. Visual Concepts

In order to remember things, many people need to visualize the information they are studying.

Pay attention to photographers, charts and other graphics that might appear in your textbook; or if you’re not studying a book, try to pull up a mental image of what it is you are trying to remember. It might also help to draw your own charts or figures, or utilize colors and highlighters to group related ideas in your notes.

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Here, you can learn How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results.

9. Teach Someone Else

Reading material out loud has been shown to significantly improve memory of the material. Expanding further upon this idea is the fact that psychologists and educators have found that by having students teach new concepts to others, it helps to enhance understanding and recall.

Teach new concepts and information to a friend or study partner, and you’ll find you remember the information a lot better.

10. Do Crossword Puzzles, Read or Play Cards

Studies have shown that doing crossword puzzles, read or play cards on a daily basis not only keep your brain active but also help to delay memory loss, especially in those who develop dementia.

So pick up the daily newspaper and work on that crossword puzzle, read a book or enjoy a game of solitaire.

Pick one to two of these tips first and start applying them to your everyday life. Very soon you’ll find yourself having better memories and a clearer head!

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Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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