Lack of Sleep and Inflammation – Why You Need To Know About It.

Do you often find yourself bragging about your lack of sleep? Perhaps you’ve overheard a work colleague gloating about their ability to run on 4-5 hours of sleep?

I know this sounds crazy, but I know plenty of people who do – even when working 24/7.

The thing is, its actually not a joking matter.

This is serious stuff.

There are MANY REASONS why sleep is critically important on our health, but one of the most poignant is that lack of sleep can obliterate your immune system – the very system that is designed to keep you well.

It’s also bi-directional, meaning an overactive immune system can lead to poor sleep.

It’s why I want to discuss an area of your immune system called inflammation, and the connection it has with lack of sleep.

So first up – you may be wondering, what exactly is inflammation?

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Fruits & Vegetables – Why They Are A Shift Worker’s Best Friend.

We should eat more fruits and vegetables! We’ve heard it all before, but why are they specifically good for shift workers, or why are they a shift worker’s best friend?

Well before I get into the nuts and bolts of it I think it’s important to understand that a staggering 96 percent of Australian adults are not consuming the recommended 5 servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit per day.

Given we live in a country that has an abundance supply of fresh produce, it’s a pretty woeful and somewhat embarrassing statistic.

In fact, depending on which part of the world you live, those statistics may be similar to where you reside too.

So why are they so important – especially if you work 24/7?

There are many reasons, but these are my Top 2 recommendations as to why you need to be incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet if you work irregular hours:

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Why Healthy Fats Are Good For Those Experiencing Sleep Disruption.

It’s pretty crazy to think that as recently as the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s we were led to believe that fat was bad for us. But this whole fat-is-bad-for-us theory was actually based on very biased research by the now discredited-researcher, Ancel Keys, as he handpicked data to prove his hypothesis that diets rich in fat raised cholesterol and caused heart disease.

The thing is, our body needs fat and cholesterol to help facilitate a number of important physiological processes in the body such as in the manufacture of sex hormones which are critical not only for fertility, but for energy as well.

Ahh energy. Something that seems to vanish soon after commencing shift work as I’m sure you can relate!

There are also fats that are referred to as “essential” fats, meaning they are essential that we consume every day because the human body cannot create these fats from other substances inside ourselves, or other substances that we might consume.  So we must consume these essential fats every day.

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HUGE ANNOUNCEMENT – New Book for Shift Workers Coming Soon!

So on Friday afternoon I received an email from my publisher, Balboa Press, that the paperback version of my book ‘Too Tired To Cook’ will be available for purchase in 2-3 weeks!

If I’m completely honest, it feels quite surreal given I’ve spent many hours, weeks, months and years chipping away at this book.

A book that I wrote because when I was working shift work, and needed some help – I couldn’t find a single book dedicated to shift workers, and one that was going to help to improve my health

So from the words of Toni Morrison – “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet: then you MUST write it.”

And so I did.

Suffice to say, I cannot wait to get it out there.

It’s time to create a global awareness to some of the multiple challenges faced by shift workers because we need people to be working 24/7.

But most importantly, we need them to be healthy too.

Audra x

Shift Work and Our Immune Systems:

Why A Healthy Gastrointestinal and Lymphatic System Is So Important.

Immunesystem

As shift workers we often push our bodies to the absolute limit, and unfortunately our immune systems get knocked around as a result.

Considering 80% of our immune system is found in the gut, it’s important that we support and nurture our gastrointestinal system because it acts as important barrier against pathogens – those nasty little micro-organisms which can cause disease.  In other words, it helps to protect our body from the outside world.

Unfortunately, continual disruption to our sleep-wake cycle as a result of haphazard rosters, actually weakens the lining of the gut, impairing our ability to fight off infections.  It also reduces important immunity cells in our body called T-cells, together with increasing inflammatory cells called cytokines.

Probably something your employer forgot to mention at your job interview – lol!

And not only are we running on limited sleep, but its often disjointed as a result of that nasty alarm clock which wakes us up at the most ungodly of hour!  This prevents the body from completing the recommended 4-5 full sleep cycles which allow it to rest, restore and rejuvenate.

So how can we strengthen our immune system, despite working 24/7?

There are many ways to do this, but these are my Top 2:

  1. Focus on Nurturing A Healthy Gut – As Hippocates, the founding father of modern medicine, so famously said:  “All health and disease begins in the gut” which is why it’s imperative that we support and nurture our gastrointestinal system.  This includes ensuring there is a healthy amount of gut bacteria or gut flora, which can help in the regulation of an immune response.  One of the best ways to do this is by ensuring your diet contains plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables containing dietary fibre, also known as prebiotics, which is essentially the food for our gut microbes.  In addition to plenty of dietary fibre and for an added boost, you can also alternate taking a broad-spectrum probiotic, which is a high strength multi-strain formula designed to provide beneficial bacteria to the entire digestive tract.
  2. Provide Support to Your Lymphatic System – the lymphatic system is our waste disposal system and is made up of glands, lymph nodes, the spleen, thymus and tonsils.  This system aids the immune system by removing and destroying waste, debris, dead blood cells, pathogens, and other toxic substances by moving it along in the lymph fluid into your glands.  This explains why our glands become enlarged when we are sick.  Rebounding on a mini-trampoline is a great way to improve the flow of lymph through the lymphatic tissues, together with ensuring you’re drinking enough water because dehydration prevents the flow of lymph fluid.

Of course, it’s important to remember that it’s OK that our bodies have to fight an infection every now and then.

It’s what it’s designed to do, which is why taking antibiotics continually is not a good thing because not only does it wipe out our good gut bacteria (goodbye immune system!), it’s not allowing our body to do what it’s supposed to do.

Whilst we don’t want to get sick, we do want to ensure our body is as resilient as humanly possible, in order for it to be able to fight an infection when it does come up, as opposed to being reliant on drugs and medication, which often come with nasty side-effects.

Audra x

 

References:

Scrivens, D 2012, ‘Rebounding:  Good for the Lymph System’, Wellbeing Journal, vol. 17, no. 3

Wu, H & Wu, E 2012, ‘The role of gut microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity’, Gut Microbes, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 4-14.