How To Work Shift Work and Minimise Digestive Distress.

When it comes to health complaints amongst shift workers, one of the most common things that I hear from my clients is digestive discomfort.  This can come in the form of constipation, bloating or various other irritable bowel type symptoms.

Now to be honest, there could be a myriad of reasons as to why you may be experiencing digestive distress, but today I want to talk about one strategy that’s  … well, often overlooked if you work 24/7 – yet it can make a MASSIVE difference to how your gut feels and functions.

And if comes down to asking yourself “when (and how often) am I eating?”

Because when we work 24/7, we tend to eat 24/7 which can set us up for a whole world of pain – in a number of ways!

In other words, although we may be awake at 2am (well I use the term “awake” loosely here!), it doesn’t mean we should be eating at 2am, because of our innate biological rhythms as a human being.

I’ll use an analogy to help explain what I mean.

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The NUMBER ONE Food That I Avoid If I Want To Sleep Better …

The other day I had someone ask me, “Audra, what’s the number one food that you avoid when you want to sleep better?”

My answer?

SUGAR!!

I know right.  I can almost hear you let out an enormous sigh.  Damn it!  We all love sugar – especially when we’re sleep deprived!

But the thing is, our bodies need nutrients – not sugar.

Yes, sugar can give us an energy boost, but too much sugar, on the other hand, can cause something called hypoglycemia, where the blood sugar ends up dropping quite severely, leading to an energy slump later on.

Not ideal when you’re trying to pry your eyes open from getting up at “stupid o’clock”, or trying to stay awake during the night shift.

But getting back to nutrients.

Nutrients = informationand sugar, especially the highly refined and processed sugar found in most processed and takeaway foods do not contain nutrients, and this can cause problems.  Especially on our sleep.

Let me explain.

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Do You Struggle With Broken Sleep? Why Your Diet May Be To Blame.

Ditching the processed foods not only help us to feel better (and shake off a few extra kilos!), but it also helps us to sleep better.

This is because most processed foods are:

  • Low in dietary fibre required to support optimal gut health. Poor gut health impacts the production of certain hormones and inhibitory neurotransmitters such as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glycine, which help to calm the nervous system and encourage better sleep. Lack of GABA also contributes to anxiety in a lot of people, which can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • High in refined sugars which feed pathogenic bacteria leading to an imbalance of gut microbes, otherwise known as dysbiosis. For example, when there is an overgrowth of a yeast infection such as Candida, it causes inflammation in the gut. This in turn triggers production of cortisol – a stress hormone that also acts as an anti-inflammatory. When cortisol levels are elevated, it can contribute to insomnia because it dampens down production of the sleep-regulating hormone, melatonin.
  • Deficient in nutrients that play a role in sleep such as vitamins B1, B3, B5, B6, folate, magnesium, zinc, iron and calcium – all of which help to facilitate the many biochemical processes required to produce melatonin. For example, magnesium, calcium and vitamin B5 act as co-factors in the conversion of serotonin to melatonin.

So if you’re struggling with continual bouts of broken sleep (on top of working shift work), it might be time to take a good look at your diet. Because gut disturbances and nutrient deficiencies as a result of consuming foods that are highly refined and processed may be further contributing to your sleep disturbance – in addition to the shift work itself.

Audra x


References:

Ji, X, Grandner, M & Liu, J 2017, ‘The relationship between micronutrient status and sleep patterns: a systematic review’, Public Health Nutrition, vol. 20, no. 4, pp. 687-701.

Li, Y, Hao, Y, Fan, F & Zhang, B 2018, ‘The role of microbiome in insomnia, circadian disturbance and depression’, Frontiers in Psychiatry, vol.9, no. 669, pp. 1-11.

Smith, R, Easson, C, Lyle, S, Kapoor, R, Donnelly, C, Davidson, E, Parikh, E, Lopez, J & Tartar, J 2019, Gut microbiome diversity is associated with sleep physiology in humans’, PLOS One, vol. 14, no. 10, pp. 1-17.

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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HSW 94 – Project Sunrise and Jet Lag with Dr Sun Bin.

Today we’re talking all things jet-lag with Dr Sun Bin from the University of Sydney who is an epidemiologist and public health researcher, who has a particular interest in sleep and circadian rhythms.

Dr Sun Bin and her team are currently working on a research project with Australia’s largest airline, Qantas, called “Project Sunrise” to ascertain the feasibility of running non-stop 19-20 hour commercial flights from the east coast of Australia, to London and New York, with a special focus around passenger and crew well-being.

What you’re going to learn:

– What is Project Sunrise, and some of the aims of the research?
– What scientists are specifically monitoring throughout the flights, as part of the research.
– Why passengers are being encouraged not to eat during the biological night, to help reduce digestive discomfort.
– Some of the results and findings so far, along with future research plans.

Links mentioned on the podcast:

Australian Parliamentary Inquiry into Sleep Health Awareness

Stair walking is more energizing than low dose caffeine in sleep-deprived young women.

Dr Bin’s work and research