It is that time of year in the northern hemisphere. Our days are shorter and skies are greyer. As the outside world becomes drearier, the temptation to lie in bed all day grows. We enter hibernation mode. But this time of year promotes the development of poor habits which can impact your sleep. Here is some advice to protect your sleep during winter.

As tempting as it is to remain in bed all day to keep warm during the winter months, try to avoid this becoming a habit. By spending more time in bed, our long sleep starts to break up into little naps. Over time, the bedroom environment becomes a place for wakefulness, not just the place to sleep. This means that it becomes increasingly difficult to sleep in bed when you actually want to, and remain asleep for as long as you want to. We then need to spend more time in bed to get the same amount of sleep that we used to, which can lead to serious sleep problems. Avoid this by only staying in bed when you are sleeping – have a hot shower or curl up on the couch to keep warm instead.

The limited amount of natural light during winter can also play havoc on our sleep. Exposure to light is very important for keeping our body’s internal clock, our circadian rhythms, in check. Circadian rhythms determine when we feel the need to sleep and when we feel awake. Many people have circadian rhythms that are slightly longer than the 24-hour day. Left to their own devices, people will gradually go to bed later and sleep in later over time.

Because natural light is a rare commodity in winter, our circadian rhythms are more likely to shift at their own whim. Bright light exposure in the morning helps to keep our circadian rhythms in check so that we can maintain our sleep schedule. Although we want to stay indoors protected from the cold, we actually need to be outside more in winter to expose our bodies to enough sunlight. If the bitter cold is too much of a deterrent for you, you may benefit from light therapy glasses in the morning to get additional light exposure and maintain your circadian rhythms.

Protect your sleep by getting enough exposure to light in the morning and avoid spending time awake in bed to ensure that you don’t catch more than a cold during the winter months. If you are ever concerned about your sleep, consult your healthcare professional.

By Hannah Scott

Hannah is a PhD (Research) Candidate from Flinders University

A poor night’s sleep can significantly impact your productivity at work the following day. You may feel extra sleepy and struggle to concentrate on important tasks. This is often the point at which many people reach for a cup of coffee to boost their alertness. While this may work in the short-term, consuming many cups of coffee each day can reduce the quality of your sleep the following night. This becomes a perpetual cycle where people rely on caffeine to perform during the day after a poor night’s sleep caused by consuming too much caffeine. To avoid this cycle, power naps can be a useful strategy to reduce sleepiness and get you through the day without impacting your sleep later that night.

 

What is a power nap?

Power naps are very brief sleep periods, typically of 10 minutes in duration. While these naps are brief, research has shown that they can improve your alertness, mood and cognitive functioning. Best of all, unlike longer naps which can leave you feeling groggy, the benefits of power naps are felt immediately after you wake up.

 

Waking from deep sleep is thought to be responsible for the grogginess typically felt after a longer nap. During brief nap periods, people typically do not enter deep stages of sleep. Also, longer naps reduce your sleep drive which can impair your ability to fall asleep later that night. This is why it is so important that a power nap is brief.

 

When should I take a power nap?

If you want a boost in alertness (two hours of benefits), then a power nap of 10 minutes is optimal. Research has also shown that a power nap taken during what is known as the ‘post-lunch dip’ in alertness (typically between 1-3pm), often leads to the greatest improvements. So, taking a quick nap during your lunch break may be all that you need to survive till the end of your work shift.

 

How can I power nap at home or work?

Getting precisely 10 minutes of sleep can be very difficult. People may try to wake spontaneously after 10 or so minutes of sleep, but even seasoned nappers may struggle to wake themselves up at the correct time. You could also try setting an alarm to wake you up after a brief period of time, but this relies on you being able to accurately estimate how long it will take you to fall asleep. Therefore, you may oversleep and feel groggy when you wake up, or barely sleep at all during your nap period.

Instead, you could try THIM: a wearable device which promises to precisely detect the point that you fall asleep to ensure you achieve the optimal power nap. So the next time that you feel sleepy during the day, take a power nap instead of a caffeine hit during your lunch break and feel the benefits.

 

By Hannah Scott

Hannah is a PhD (Research) Candidate from Flinders University

In a small pilot study, researchers have obtained encouraging results in using bright-light therapy to treat people with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In addition to trauma-related symptoms such as flashbacks, people with PTSD often report depressed mood and reduced quantity and quality of sleep. The partial overlap in symptoms with those of depression led Alyson K. Zalta, Ph.D., a 2016 BBRF Young Investigator now at the University of California, Irvine, and colleagues, to test whether bright-light exposure early in the day might help in PTSD, as it sometimes can in depression and seasonal mood disorder. Helen Burgess, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan, co-led the study.

Past tests of bright-light therapy indicate that its effectiveness has much to do with the time of day in which it is delivered and the frequency and duration of treatments. There is evidence that people with the most intense PTSD symptoms have what scientists call “an evening chronotype.” This means the body’s natural 24-hour circadian rhythm is shifted later in the day, resulting in sleep disturbances.

Dr. Zalta and colleagues used a commercially available, wearable bright-light device to see whether one hour of bright-light exposure in the morning might shift patients’ circadian cycle back “toward morningness.”

The device used in the trial, called Re-timer, looks like a pair of oversized goggles with built-in LED lighting elements surrounding the eyes. The team also devised a “placebo” version of the same device. In a group of 15 volunteers who self-reported PTSD symptoms, nine received the “active” device and six the placebo version.

The results after 4 weeks of self-administered early-morning treatments led the team to conclude that bright-light treatment “was acceptable and feasible for patients,” and despite the small size of the study, appeared to help those in in the “active” group, with improvements over baseline symptoms.

Compliance wasn’t ideal. Participants initiated light therapy on 77% of treatment days, and averaged only 35 minutes per day on the device within the appointed time slot. Thus, many failed to receive what the researchers considered a minimally active daily course of treatment.

Those in the “active” group did, however, experience a circadian shift with the amount of light they received, as evidenced by earlier morning wake times. And “a higher proportion of those in the active group demonstrated a clinically meaningful improvement in PTSD symptoms,” the team reported April 17th in the journal Depression & Anxiety.

The team hopes to test the concept on a larger scale, and will explore ways of bringing patient compliance within the range they regard most likely to produce therapeutic results. The team also included 2003 BBRF Independent Investigator Mark Pollack, M.D.

Dr. Zalta commented: “If the method we tested here on a small scale proves to be effective, we are hopeful it can make a positive impact, since it is potentially much more accessible to patients than evidence-based psychotherapy and potentially more acceptable. It could present a new option for patients seeking care.”

Note: Content originally published as “Early-Morning Bright-Light Therapy Helped Patients with PTSD Symptoms”, by Alyson Kay Zalta, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine, as published in Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, May 8, 2019.

https://www.bbrfoundation.org/content/early-morning-bright-light-therapy-helped-patients-ptsd-symptoms

Disclaimer: Re-Timer has not been approved to treat PTSD by any regulatory authority and we make no claims to the efficacy for this indication.
Feature photo courtesy of  Twitter Alyson Zalta (@alysonzalta) | Twitter

Central Gippsland Health to trial light therapy glasses for shift workers _ Gippsland Times

NURSES at Central Gippsland Health will trial state-of-the-art bright light therapy glasses designed to help combat the demands of working a busy night shift.

The trial is part of the Wellington Primary Care Partnership’s Working Well in Wellington project which aims to develop and trial a number of strategies to improve the mental wellbeing of shift workers.

Wellington Primary Care Partnership executive officer Angie Collins said the use of the Re-Timer glasses was part of an exciting new strategy that aimed to help nurses who undertook shift work to regulate their sleep patterns.

“Developed by Professor Leon Lack from his extensive research at Adelaide’s Flinders University, the glasses shine glowing green-blue wavelength light into the eye of the wearer to beneficially re-time the body’s circadian rhythm and melatonin production, as well as increase alertness in the critical early morning hours of the shift when cognitive ability tends to drop off the most,” Ms Collins said.

“We are hoping that the glasses will help to delay sleep time in preparation for night shift, help the nurses to improve their ability to cope with fatigue associated with working shift work, improve the quality of sleep during daylight hours and wake up earlier on days off.

“Research has indicated that good sleep is an important part of maintaining mental health and wellbeing.

“Professor Lack himself is interested in the trial and will be providing input to help us”.

Central Gippsland Health recently welcomed an expert panel to discuss mental wellbeing for shift workers. Pictured from left are Central Gippsland Health nurse unit manager Gary McMillan, psychologist Yasmin Schaefer, Monash Universitys Dr Jade Murray, Latrobe Community Health dietitian Anna Scobie and Wellington Primary Care project worker Linda Hunt.
Central Gippsland Health recently welcomed an expert panel to discuss mental wellbeing for shift workers. Pictured from left are Central Gippsland Health nurse unit manager Gary McMillan, psychologist Yasmin Schaefer, Monash Universitys Dr Jade Murray, Latrobe Community Health dietitian Anna Scobie and Wellington Primary Care project worker Linda Hunt.

The Re-Timer glasses were recently used by the Socceroos as part of their World Cup campaign.

Some players wore the glasses on long distance flights to help recover from jet lag and be in peak condition when arriving to games.

Older technologies required the person to sit in front of a light box for an extended period of time.

“This is not very practical for a busy nurse who needs to be able to continue with their personal and professional activities,” Ms Collins said.

“The glasses can be worn at any time, except when driving, and each nurse will be given a personalised timetable that matches their roster to give them optimum results.

“The glasses only need to be worn for a maximum of one hour per day.”

The Working Well in Wellington Project is supported by WorkSafe’s WorkWell Mental Health Improvement Fund.

Workplace Safety Minister Jill Hennessy said the trial was a good example of the practical ways in which recipients of funding from Victoria’s WorkSafe WorkWell initiative were able to support workers whose jobs made them more susceptible to mental health challenges.

“We know that getting a good sleep can play a large role in maintaining mental health, but for shift workers this can be difficult,” she said.

Ms Hennessy said the government was looking forward to seeing the results of this trial and others to come.

Central Gippsland Health chief executive Frank Evans said CGH was also keen to see the results of the trial.

“We understand that shift work is both physically and mentally demanding,” Dr Evans said.

“We hope that the use of the glasses will enable our staff to be in the best possible mental and physical health.”

Did you know that around 20% of women who have given birth suffer from some level of the baby blues? 

Becoming a parent brings a wide range of emotions, such as joy and excitement to stress, anxiety and apprehension.  During this period though, both parents may experience disturbed circadian rhythms and sleep cycles leaving them irritable, lacking energy and variable mood state.  Bright light therapy can help overcome these symptoms.

Bright Light Therapy & Postpartum Depression Research

Bright light therapy is widely known to be a solution for the Winter Blues (Seasonal Affective Disorder).  However, per an initial pilot study at the University of Michigan, the Re-Timer home-wearable light therapy glasses was found to be potentially feasible for postpartum depression.

You can access the research article here: https://www.re-timer.com/babyblues/

 

Globalisation has given rise to the 24-hour work culture.

More and more people around the world are working night shifts.

Working during the night is not the same as working during the day as the biological clock and circadian rhythms are significantly impacted leading to higher levels of fatigue and reduced alertness.

The Wellcome Trust UK, enlisted the Liminal Space to explore the subject of sleep and shift workers and, how to makeshift workers healthier.  This research project was supported by the University of Oxford and Co-Op. The result of this research is Night Club – a community and unique physical space where Co-op warehouse operatives came together to learn, discuss and engage through innovative educational activities and experiences, including expert clinics, light-based experiments using Re-Timers, chronotype activities, midnight feast meals and an immersive sleep haven. The engagement intervention was designed to inform and empower a workforce facing multiple challenges. Positively, 85% of Night Club attendees reported that they had learned new information about sleep and their own sleep health during the process.

There is substantial evidence that Light Therapy is very effective in improving sleep patterns and overcome fatigue during work.

Re-Timer is a must-have tool for all shift workers to ensure they achieve healthy sleep levels, remain alert and active at work (resulting in increased safety at work).
It can be extremely beneficial if you are someone who drives back home during the early morning hours to wear Re-Timer during your shift break and at least for 15 minutes before you start driving. (Re-Timer shouldn’t be used while driving and/or while operating any machinery/equipment).

Find out how the University of Oxford, The Liminal Space and Co-op came together to create the world’s first ‘Night Club’-a community and unique physical space to learn and overcome the negative impact of sleep on shift work.

Re-Timer was used at the ‘Night Club’ to derive the benefits of Light Therapy. Watch the video-https://vimeo.com/395145124

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