HSW 18 – Circadian Rhythms and Mindfulness with Professor Greg Murray.


Healthy Shift Worker Podcast Episode 18:

This week Audra interview’s the Head of Psychological Sciences and Statistics at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne – Professor Greg Murray.  Greg is a practicing clinical psychologist, a Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society, and is involved nationally with the training an accreditation of clinical psychologists in Australia.

His major area of research interest is the chronobiology of mood, especially the relationship between sleep, circadian function and positive mood states – which are all very relevant points of interest, for anyone who has to work 24/7.

Greg also has a completely different life off campus as a drummer which makes this episode not only incredibly informative – but entertaining too!

Photo source:  Swinburne University of Technology

Shift Work Research:

My Journey So Far, and Why I Care So Much.

Alarm clock with stethoscope concept healthcare time

My journey into researching shift work health began back in 2012, when I was a Customer Service Officer and Trainer based at Brisbane Airport, and decided to commence a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in Nutritional Medicine part-time, around my current full-time shift working job.

I became fascinated with learning more about Nutrition and how it can influence the health of shift workers when a staff member arrived late into my training class one day holding in her hand – a hamburger, donut and a soft drink.

Whilst that may not seem unusual, it was only 9am and when I politely said – “that’s an interesting choice of breakfast”, her response was “I’ve been up since 4am and in need of some sustenance!”

Sustenance?  This word left me totally perplexed as I never knew a hamburger, donut and soft drink could contain so much sustenance!

And this got me curious.

It made me want to learn more about what exactly these sorts of foods were doing to us – particularly when working 24/7.  By “these foods” I’m referring to those which are high in saturated fats and trans fats, along with those which are high in refined and processed sugars.  Diets which have become fairly standard for many a shift worker these days.

So fast forward to 2016 as I near the home stretch of this science degree, I have to say it’s certainly been an interesting ride.  As I’ve focused the majority of my research and assignments around shift work, it’s become somewhat emotional at times.

This is because the more I research, the more my heart sinks for my ever growing tribe of energy depleted and immune compromised shift workers.

In fact I’ve since come to realise, just how incredibly naive I was coming into this degree.

I thought all I was going to need to do, was to learn all about the different macro and micronutrients along with the many vitamins and minerals which are needed to sustain good health.  Throw in a few healthy recipes here and there, and voila – I’d be done!

But this degree has taught me way more than that.


Our Gut Clock:

Why Circadian Misalignment Is A Shift Worker's Nemesis!

gutclock2As someone who works rotating shifts 24/7, have you ever noticed or wondered why you’re particularly susceptible to digestive issues and gastrointestinal complaints?

Well just to put your mind at rest – you’re not imagining things!

It’s called circadian rhythm misalignment, and it’s a nemesis for many shift workers around the world.

Circadian misalignment is when our endogenous or internal body clock is not consistent with our current environment or behaviour.  For example, a shift worker is often up when the sun is down, or eating during the night when everyone else is tucked into bed and sound asleep.

In other words – we’re doing everything backwards.

Our circadian rhythms operate in 24 hour cycles under the masterful instruction of our core master clock, the suprachiasmatic nucleus which is located in the brain, just below the hypothalamus*.

Besides being very hard to pronounce, this nucleus is responsible for coordinating all of our internal rhythms or clocks in a synchronized way, and talks to other tissues within the body which have their own internal clock oscillators such as the gastrointestinal tract or GIT.

And here lies the problem for shift workers. (more…)