What This Corona Virus Is Really Teaching Us.

Things are certainly changing day by day (if not hour by hour) since the outbreak of this coronavirus, but I’d like to just pause for a moment, and ask ourselves what can we learn from this?

In other words, what is this corona virus really teaching us?

Because I think its been the biggest wake-up call in our history, to remind us of how critically important (and fragile) our health is.

For far too many of us, we continue to neglect our bodies with poor dietary and lifestyle choices – taking our health for granted which over the long-term, is going to lead to poor health outcomes.

Unlike a virus, however, poor dietary and lifestyle choices don’t have an immediate impact.  


Why Prioritising Your Sleep Is Important – REALLY Important.

Today I want to talk about why we need to be prioritising our sleep when working 24/7 – which I know sounds like a bit of a no-brainer when working irregular hours, but surprisingly so many of us aren’t doing it!

Having worked with SO many clients over the years (and from observing my own behaviour)… I know first-hand that sleep tends to get pushed down the ladder of priorities in comparison to other areas of our life.

As one of my clients so openly and honestly shared with me:

“But Audra, I’ve got way more important things that I need to be doing than sleep!”

Ummm. Wrong answer!

So why is prioritising our sleep so important?

Well there are many, many reasons, but probably hands down the biggest is that your immune system is dependant on you getting sufficient quality sleep. In other words getting sufficient quality sleep is an absolute necessity to keep you healthy and well!


HSW 40 – Shift Work and Your Immune System.

Healthy Shift Worker Podcast Episode:

It’s currently winter here in Australia, and many of my clients are showing signs of being struck down by various things like colds and flu so today’s episode is going to be all about that – your immune system, and how shift work, or more specifically sleep deprivation impairs its ability to function as it should.

The link between lack of sleep and a depleted immune system has been shown in various studies including a Dutch cohort study involving more than 10,000 employees, many of which included shift workers. Results showed that shift workers, especially those working the night shift, had a much higher risk of infections such as colds, flu and gastroenteritis, compared to those working daytime shifts.

So that’s the bad news, but what can we do to build our resilience and prevent ourselves from getting sick in the first place, besides getting some much needed sleep?!

Well, there are a myriad of ways to support our immune system, but in this episode I focus on just three, including the importance of vitamins C and D3, along with nurturing our gut or gastrointestinal tract which is home to 80% of our immune system.

I also chat about the connection between diets high in processed and pre-packaged foods and gut dysbiosis, and how these foods can have detrimental effects on our immune regulating gut flora or microbiome. Quite simply, if your diet encompasses lots of processed foods, then you are quite literally contributing to the destruction of your immune system.

So if you’re sick and tired of getting sick all of the time, then you won’t want to miss this episode.

Audra x

Resources mentioned on the podcast

Professor Russel Foster’s TED Talk – Why Do We Sleep?

Dr Natasha Campbell’s book – Gut and Psychology Syndrome.

It’s Time For A Change!

change3It’s time for a change!

After much deliberation, I’ve decided to undergo some rebranding and revert back to the original name of my blog – ‘The Healthy Shift Worker’, which I set up way back in 2009.

Wow – it’s hard to believe this blog has been humming along for that long, but don’t worry – the content is still going to be the same as I share some of my ‘shift working wisdom’ on all things to do with shift work including sleep, immunity, nutrition, mindset and movement.

I’d love to tell you the BIG reason for the name change, but it’s a bit top secret at the moment (although super exciting!)

Hope you’re having a great weekend – whether you’re rostered on or off!

Audra x

Moodiness, Weight Fluctuations and Immune System Havoc – Why Shift Work Is To Blame.

Stressful and frustrated woman holding alarm clockDo you ever have days when you’re feeling a little moody or irritable? Perhaps you’ve been struggling with ongoing weight fluctuations coupled with a depleted immune system?

If you work 24/7, chances are you’ve experienced at least one of these complaints.

So let’s talk about moodiness. Ongoing sleep deprivation certainly fosters feelings of bad-temperedness but have you ever really wondered why?

Well considering sleep is absolutely vital for our health, it’s not surprising that you feel this way.  Some of the many benefits of sleep include the following:

  • to enable our brains to conserve energy,
  • to assist in the repair and growth of tissues and muscles,
  • and to help restore cognitive function.

A restful slumber also helps the body to remove the build-up of adenosine, a sleep regulating substance which influences our sleep drive or our level of tiredness*.

So essentially when we sleep, excess adenosine is eliminated enabling us to feel more alert when we wake up, but because shift workers run on little sleep we’ve essentially got traces of adenosine still left in our system when that alarm clock goes off.

This contributes to feelings of drowsiness and you guessed it – moodiness and irritability!

But it’s not just an excess of adenosine that’s influencing our behaviour – so to do our hormones.

Hormones are chemicals which form part of our endocrine system which are secreted directly into the blood by an array of different glands including the pituitary, hypothalamus, thymus, pineal, testes, ovaries, thyroid, adrenal, parathyroid and pancreas. These glands are involved in growth, metabolism and our sympathetic nervous system or “fight or flight” response to stress.

When these glands are working normally, it enables our body to stay in a state of homeostasis or balance.

The trouble for shift workers is that a lot of these hormones are subject to diurnal variation i.e. influenced by the time of day.

For example, cortisol which is produced by the adrenal glands affects the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats which in turn affects our glucose levels. Cortisol also suppresses the immune system during times of stress which is not ideal when faced with a challenging day at work.  Normally our cortisol levels peak between 6-8am, and drop around midnight** however as this hormone is influenced by diurnal variation (particularly those working night shift), these hormones can become imbalanced.

So my big take home from this is don’t beat yourself if you’re experiencing moodiness, weight fluctuations and a depleted immune system.  

  • If you’re not getting enough sleep (which is always the case when working 24/7), and your body is unable to flush out the excess adenosine from your system, then you’re going to feel tired – and with tiredness comes a certain element of irritability.
  •  If your body is unable to convert the fuel in the food that you eat into energy as a result of a disrupted metabolism, then it can certainly have an influence on your weight.
  • And if your cortisol levels are being suppressed when you really need it during those stressful times at work, then it’s going to have an impact on your immune system.

So knowing how adenosine plays an important role in our sleep/wake regulation, along with our hormones being subject to diurnal variation – it can certainly be tricky to maintain that glamourous svelte figure, a robust immune system and cheerful demeanour when working 24/7!

*Reference – Why Do We Sleep Anyway?

**Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests