Rx for Readers: Blue moons make blue moods

For someone suffering from work-related sleep issues, changing jobs isn’t always an option

yawning 311 (photo credit: Ian McVea/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT)
yawning 311
(photo credit: Ian McVea/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT)
I have been working night shifts a few times a week over the past few months in addition to my day job so I can temporarily earn more money. I try to get as much sleep as possible, but I often find myself unable to do so during the day and am sometimes irritable and even depressed. Does working at two jobs have to affect one’s mood and health, and is there something I can do about it without resigning from the night job?
       – G.R., Netanya
Neurology professor Raman Malhotra of Saint Louis University and codirector of its Sleep Disorders Center says:
With pressure from the tough economy to bring in extra income, more people are sacrificing sleep to work night shifts or two jobs  to make ends meet. In the last couple of years, I’ve seen more overworked patients taking on extra shifts or second jobs. For someone sufferingfrom work-related sleep issues, changing jobs isn’t always an option. Instead, we’ve got to offer solutions to make the best of the current situation.
Night shifts, rotating schedules and second jobs wreak havoc on sleep schedules and cut into sleep time, siphoning energy and good health. Missing sleep carries some hefty penalties for health. In addition to common complaints like fatigue and irritability, lack of sleep has been linked to memory issues, depression and cardiovascular problems. One recent study of nurses even linked lack of sleep to higher rates of cancer. In addition, being sleepy can led to dangerous situations on the job – fatigued truck drivers and pilots, for example, risk falling asleep at the wheel, and factory workers can get hurt.
But there are things you can do: If you’re coming off a night shift and trying to catch some sleep, a sunny day can confuse your brain. Make sure your blinds are drawn and reduce other light in your bedroom. I also recommend finding ways to reduce your exposure tosunlight before going to bed. Wear sunglasses on the way home from work or, conversely, spend time in a well-lit room before you go there. Your activity level can tell your body that it’s time for work or sleep. Avoid vigorous activity before you intend to sleep and staybusy before you head to work.
If friends call you when you’re asleep during the day, either turn off your phone or advise them what your schedule is and tell them when it is best for them to call.
It may be time to see a sleep specialist if you’re getting in trouble at work, receiving complaints or having a hard time being productive. Losing your temper with your family and being unable to stay awake at your child’s recital are other warning signs that sleep deprivation is affecting your life. A sleep specialist can also advise you if you’re not falling asleep easily during the day.
Make sure to get a general checkup from your personal physician to make sure you are healthy and investigate the causes of your “blue moods.”
I am a 54-year-old man with an autoimmune liver condition and take the oral medication Imuran on a daily basis. I function well and only visit my doctor every few months for checkups. I want to take a natural diuretic that my doctor recommended to me. It contains these ingredients: Arctium lappa, asparagus, centauri, cyani mellisa, methae, orthosiphon, petroslini, rad sambuci, stigma maidis and urae ursi. I would like to know whether such a diuretic, combined with the Imuran, would cause me any harm due to my autoimmune condition.

       – A.J.,Beersheba
Dr. Menachem Oberbaum, director of the Center for Integrative Complementary Medicine at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, comments:
There is no literature regarding the interactions that may occurbetween Imuran (azathioprine) and herbal remedies. Moreover, theliterature is also lacking information as to the effects of theseremedies on the liver with long-term use. This is an example of asituation in which conventional diuretics, which have been studiedthoroughly with respect to their safety profiles, should be preferredover “natural” diuretics, which remain enigmatic.
Rxfor Readers welcomes queries from readers about medical problems.Experts will answer those we find most interesting. Write Rx forReaders, The Jerusalem Post, POB 81, Jerusalem 91000, fax your questionto Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at (02) 538-9527, or e-mail it tojsiegel@jpost.com, giving your initials, age and residence.