Do You Really Understand The Consequences of Poor Sleep?

Yesterday I was talking to a potential client, who was bit unsure and hesitant about working with me, so I decided to ask her a few questions regarding her current lifestyle habits.

Because let’s face it, our diet and lifestyle habits are often one of the firsts thing to turn pear- shaped when we begin working 24/7!

But I also I asked her this question:

“Do you really understand some of the consequences of poor sleep?  Like really understand some of the consequences?”

Like many shift workers – she didn’t.

I mean she’d certainly heard about them, but had chosen to either ignore them or had gone into “oh, that won’t happen to me mode” – like so many people who work 24/7 do.

So let’s share some of the consequences of poor and/or insufficient sleep – and how it raises your risk of developing certain health conditions:

  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Weight Gain
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Cognitive Decline
  • Depleted Immune system
  • Strained Relationships … to name a few!

Not to mention, we’re more likely to become reliant on sleep medications – many of which are not designed for long term use, and can come with some nasty side-effects.

Worse still, when we haven’t had sufficient quality sleep – we’re prone to making mistakes and/or being involved in an accident when we’re tired.

Multiple studies have shown that even moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments equivalent to those of alcohol intoxication.   After 17 to 19 hours without sleep, performance is equivalent or worse than that of a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.05 percent.  This effectively makes you a drunk driver – without having a single drop of alcohol.

So please keep this in mind the next time you decide to sign up for a double shift!

Quite simply, there isn’t one area of your life that IS NOT affected by lack of sleep.

Now if you’ve been following my work for a while, you know that your health is important to me.  Gosh, I even walked away from a career that I loved, in order to go back to “school” and learn all that I could about shift work health, so that I could then go on, and help as many people as I could.

Right now, I’m looking for a handful of people who are committed to taking care of their sleep (and health), and are prepared to do whatever it takes NOT TO become one of the “sleep deprived statistics” that I’ve shared above.

On the other hand, if you don’t care about raising your risks of developing cardiovascular disease, gaining weight, developing Type 2 Diabetes and/or having a depleted immune system – at least do it for the sake of your relationships and/or family.  I’m sure they don’t want you to become one of those statistics – even if you don’t!

And now for the good news.

I’ve just opened up limited spots for the beta launch of my ‘7 Day Better Sleep Kickstart Program’ to take people through a step-by-step process to improve their sleep – despite working 24/7.

So if you care about your health, then let’s talk.

Book your Better Sleep Strategy session with me today (it’s Free!) by Clicking Right Here – and let’s get your sleep (and health) sorted once and for all!

Audra x

P.S:  If you don’t believe me when I say that sleep affects us in this way, feel free to read the research article below as it goes into great detail of some of the short-term and long-term health consequences of poor sleep.  The reality is, we can no longer afford to ignore the importance of sleep, and how it affects our overall health and wellbeing.  If we do, it’s only a matter of time before our health begins to suffer.



Medic, G, Wille, M & Hemels, M 2017, ‘Short and long-term health consequences  of sleep disruption’, Nature and Science of Sleep, vol. 9, pp. 151-161.

Leptin Resistance:

What Is It, and What Make's Shift Workers Prone to It?

Something I hear often from many of my shift working clients is “ever since starting shift work, I’ve continued to gain weight.”

Perhaps this is something that you can relate too as well.

But why is this so?

Well the etiology (or cause) of weight gain and/or obesity is certainly very multifactorial, but one of the biggest drivers behind weight gain is due to a satiety or ‘hunger hormone’ called leptin.  You may remember from a previous blog post – Weight Loss and Shift Work, where I discuss how sleep deprivation is actually a type of endocrine or hormone disruptor – one of which includes leptin.

Leptin is a hormone that is stored in our fat cells and essentially tells us when we are feeling full.  It does this by sending a message to the pituitary gland in our brain, telling us when we’ve had enough to eat, and that we do not require any more food.

Quite simply, it acts a bit like a petrol gauge in our car, telling us when we’re full, versus getting close to empty.

But what happens in leptin resistance?

Well when we put on more and more weight, we produce more and more leptin which causes the receptors of our cells (the part of the cell which receives stimuli) to become fatigued (or resistant).  In other words, the body fails to receive those “I’m feeling full” signals, subsequently tricking the body into believing it isn’t carrying enough weight and needs to eat more.

It’s kind of a Catch 22 really, because the more fat we have, the more leptin is produced.

See the dilema here?

So if you keep putting on more and more weight, then you gain more and more fat cells which triggers more and more leptin, which causes the body to wrongly tell you that you’re starving, when in fact, you’ve probably had more than enough to eat.

It really can become a vicious cycle, but what can you do about it?


Weight Loss and Shift Work:

Why It's So Hard To Achieve When Working 24/7.

doctor is showing clock and fruit to patient to change eating habits know

As we say goodbye to another year and welcome in the arrival of a new one, the words “New Years Resolution” and “Weight Loss” seem to go hand in hand with one another … each and every year.

But why is it that so many people struggle to lose weight when working 24/7?

Is it because we have little motivation to get up and exercise?  Or perhaps it’s because we lack the energy to cook our own meals and become reliant on quick and easy processed foods, takeaways and anything else that is loaded with sugar?  Or maybe it’s because we’re awake for much longer which leads to us eating more?

All of these are certainly valid possibilities given sleep deprivation forms such a huge part of a shift worker’s existence.

But what if there was another reason?

What if there was something else going on inside our body that has nothing to do with willpower, but everything to do with sleep deprivation throwing our ‘hunger hormones’ out of balance?

Because this is exactly what every shift worker knowingly (or un-knowningly) has to face when working 24/7.

Sleep deprivation is essentially a type of endocrine or hormone disruptor which if we’re not careful, can cause havoc on our waistlines.  Whilst there’s a lot of emphasis in the media about environmental toxins such as bisphenol A or BPA, along with phthalates found in plastic containers being hormone disruptors (and rightly so given they can cause havoc on our oestrogen levels), little attention is given to how sleep deprivation can also alter our finely tuned endocrine system.

Two of the hormones which become impacted as a result of lack of sleep include leptin and ghrelin which play a huge role in appetite-regulation.  When working correctly, leptin sends signals to the brain telling us when we’re full, whilst ghrelin let’s us know when we’re feeling hungry.

The trouble for shift workers (and anyone else who may be struggling with insomnia), is these hormones don’t function as they should when we’re running on limited sleep which can lead to overeating and subsequent weight gain.

This was illustrated in a study of over 1000 sleep-deprived subjects where disruption to appetite hormones equated to an increase in food consumption equivalent to 350-500 k/cal per day, most notably in the form of snacks made from carbohydrates.

In other words, we’re more likely to consume calorie-dense foods like cake, pasta, bread, potatoes and pizza when we’re running on little sleep, making it somewhat challenging for anyone who is trying to lose weight.

But I want you to know that it doesn’t mean you’re destined to become overweight, just because you work 24/7.  If this was so, then every single person who works shift work would be overweight which is not the case.

Sure, it definitely makes it harder knowing that your body is “playing tricks” on you by sending skewed appetite signals, but you can avoid becoming another weight-gain-statistic by simply implementing the following strategies:

  1. Understand that your hunger hormones will occasionally send you “skewed appetite signals” – in other words, telling you that you’re hungry when in fact, you’ve had sufficient amount of food to eat.  More often then not, you’re probably dehydrated so always reach for a glass of water first before tucking into some food.  If after drinking a full glass of water you’re still hungry then, and only then, have something small to eat.
  2. Watch the timing of your food intake.  Our digestive system is essentially “sleeping” between midnight and 6am, meaning the pancreas secretes less insulin and gastric emptying slows right down so food intake should be kept to an absolute minimum during this time frame.
  3. Constipation is one of the leading causes of weight gain, so make sure you include plenty of high-fibre foods in your diet such as fresh fruit and vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, grains and seeds.  Fibre, along with adequate water intake helps to ensure toxins and waste products are removed from the body thereby preventing inflammation which is a major contributor to chronic disease – one of which includes obesity.
  4. Increase your intake of high-protein foods as they help to keep you feeling fuller for longer.  For example, grass-fed beef, organic free range eggs, cottage cheese, wild fish and organic chicken can help to prevent overeating and may even help you lose weight.
  5. Increase your intake of healthy fats as they take longer to digest, thereby leaving you feeling fuller for longer.  For example avocado, full-fat yoghurt, nuts and seeds such as chia, coconut oil and salmon.
  6. And last but not least – always, always, always have healthy snacks on hand when on shift so that you don’t succumb to the magnetic spell of the vending machine which as we know, can often be our nemesis when working 24/7!

So here’s to fighting the shift work bulge the healthy way in 2017 by nourishing our body instead of depriving it, and being one step ahead of our hunger hormones so we don’t fall victim to their skewed signalling!

Happy New Years everyone!

Audra x



Broussard, J, Kulkus, J, Delebecque, F, Abraham, V, Day, A, Whitmore, H & Tasali, E 2016, ‘Elevated ghrelin predicts food intake during experimental sleep restriction’, Obesity, vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 132-138.

Cagampang, F & Bruce, K 2012, ‘The role of the circadian clock system in nutrition and metabolism’, British Journal of Nutrition, vol. 108, pp. 381-392.

Laposky, A,  Bass, J, Kohsaka, A & Turek, F 2008, ‘Sleep and circadian rhythms: key components in the regulation of energy metabolism’, FEBS Letters, vol. 582, no. 1, pp. 142–151.

Ulhôa, M, Marqueze, E, Burgos, L & Moreno, C 2015, ‘Shift work and endocrine disorders’, International Journal of Endocrinology, vol. 2015, pp. 1-11.

HSW 20: Gut Microbiome, Sleep Disruption and Obesity with Dr Amy Reynolds.

Gut Flora, word cloud concept on white background.

Healthy Shift Worker Podcast Episode 20:  

In this week’s episode, Audra chats with Dr Amy Reynolds from CQ University’s Appleton Institute in Adelaide, who in conjunction with researchers at the University of Chicago, is heading up a research study to identify if disrupted sleep affects the human gut microbiota. The study aims to explore ways in which sleep duration affects the composition of the human microbiome, and whether this may in turn play a part in mental health problems and weight management issues – conditions experienced by many who work 24/7.

Links mentioned in the podcast: – To have your microbiome sequenced and learn more about your bacteria. – To register for the Sleep Study.

Weight Loss In Shift Work:

Why Is It So Hard To Achieve?

Lose weight concept with person on a scale measuring kilograms

When it comes to New Year’s Resolutions, weight loss would have to top the charts hands down – every single year, every single time.

But when you’re a shift worker – achieving this goal can become even harder to reach.

In fact you probably go to bed at night (or the day, depending on your shift), wondering if you’re ever going to get back to that svelt figure that you once had when you were 16 years of age.

OK, if that’s what you’re aiming for then we may need to readjust your goals a little!

However if you’re trying to lose weight around working crazy and irregular hours, it can often feel as though it’s one step forward, two steps back.

Sounding familiar?

Have you ever wondered why it’s so hard?

Well there are a number of reasons why but in a nutshell, whenever we’re sleep deprived our body essentially becomes biologically stressed (*).

Yep that’s right.

Our body is stressed even before we’ve walked through the front door and started our shift! (more…)