E. Shift workers, Jetlag, Varying Sleep Times

SHIFT WORKERS, JET LAG, VARYING SLEEP TIMES

Shiftwork
In a Nutshell

Putting your body clock out disturbs your sleep.  Apart from developing your own technologies around Melatonin (by trial and error, and discipline) – we recommend you develop some damage control techniques.

Crack it Now!

Take time to readjust after work before attempting to go to sleep.   Be as routined as you can to minimise the body clock shock.  To settle yourself down for sleep listen to one of our many relaxation CDs (one that has been very well received is A Chakra Meditation CD – a bit new age, but just listen!).  To restore yourself quickly when you are fading, try the 10 Minute Supercharger CD.

Jetlag

Jetlag occurs following air travel across many time zones.  It is experienced as lethargy, sleepiness, difficulty concentrating and moodiness during the day as well as difficulty sleeping at night at your overseas destination.  If you do nothing to reset your body clock at your destination you will feel like falling asleep in the middle of the day.  You will then awake in the middle of the night and be unable to fall back to sleep for the rest of the night.  If it is necessary to stay awake during the day for meetings or work you will struggle to maintain concentration and to stay awake.

Jetlag is caused by your body clock still on home time and not “in sync” with your new destination time.
Source:  www.flinderstech.com

It is generally easier to adjust to a lengthened day than a shortened day. Specifically East-West travel is easier than West-East:  unless of course you travel to a time zone 12 hours displaced from your normal one – then it doesn’t matter which direction you go.

94% of passengers suffer from jetlag.  It can last for up to 2 weeks. It has been stated that 1 recovery day is required for each time zone crossed.  Source: What’s Good For You, August 14, 2006.

Our Recommendations:  When travelling, try to stay up until the normal sleeping time in your new country/time zone.  Eat and drink healthy foods while travelling and re-adjusting.  We are waiting on the Retime Jetlag Glasses (see below) before making any other recommendations.  If a frequent traveller, and continually stressing your rhythms, buy any relaxation CD that suits you, and the 10-Minute Supercharger CD to download into your iPod or computer.

Bright Light Therapy

Professor Leon Lack from Flinders University has spent years researching sleep and bright light therapy.

For further information on bright light therapy, including explanations:

  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
  • Winter Blues
  • Delayed Sleep Phase
  • Advanced Sleep Phase
  • Night Shift Work

Refer specifically to www.re-time.com/otheruses.php

At our last enquiry (August 2006) the Re-time Jetlag Glasses were not available yet. They are scientifically proven to alter circadian rhythms. For more information refer www.re-time.com.

Circadian Rhythm and Melatonin

The pineal gland in the centre of the brain secretes a hormone known as melatonin.  This hormone controls the sleeping/waking cycle and is itself controlled by the daily light-dark cycle.  Melatonin rises and falls in a distinct pattern known as the circadian rhythm, which generally follows a 24-hour cycle.  Interestingly, in studies done on people deprived of environmental day/night cues, the cycle is actually closer to 25 hours rather than 24.  It has been shown that when we wake up each morning and ‘see the light’ we reset or ‘entrain’ the cycle back to the 24 hour period.

As your circadian rhythm declines (as you get more tired at the end of the day), your ability to metabolise stimulants declines.  This magnifies the disruption caused by that late night coffee, cigarette, or violent movie.

Ultradian Rhythm (UR)

Whilst there is general familiarity with the 24 hour circadian rhythm, many people have never heard of the Ultradian Rhythm (UR).  The UR is a mini-cycle of melatonin secretion that operates within a 90 minute period (i.e. there are 1.5 hours between peaks on this cycle).  Knowledge of this cycle can help us to manage our sleep more effectively at certain times.

A good way to demonstrate the effect of UR is to consider a familiar situation such as watching the Sunday night movie.  If the movie runs from 8.30 – 10.30 pm, you may notice that around 10 pm that you are having trouble keeping your eyes open.  In this situation both your Circadian and Ultradian rhythms are probably well on the way down to their respective low points.  You might be enjoying the movie and decide to watch till the end before going to bed.  After brushing your teeth etc, you may find you have trouble falling asleep, when half an hour ago you had trouble staying awake!  What has happened is that you pushed through the low point of your UR and are now on the “upswing”.  Your next opportunity to get into some reasonably sound sleep may not be until 11.30 pm (90 minutes from your last UR trough).

Putting sleep off for 15-20 minutes may actually cost you 90 minutes of quality sleep, at the same time as reinforcing your unfortunate mind pattern of  “I can’t fall asleep straight away when I go to bed”.

Melatonin

Melatonin is a ubiquitous natural hormone-like compound produced in the pineal gland.  This hormone is involved in numerous aspects of general circadian and physiological regulations.  It sets and maintains the internal clock governing the natural rhythm of body functions.  The amount of melatonin produced by our body seems to lessen as we get older.

Clinically, melatonin has been used in rhythm disturbances and sleep disorders.  It has been reported as being useful in resetting the body clocks of shift workers and people suffering from jet lag.

Melatonin is not suitable for pregnant women.  Reports from users include vivid dreams and sometimes slightly ‘freaky’ dreams.