Pelham - Windham News September 9, 2011 - 11
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate continued to hover around 9 percent as recently as February of this year. With more than 13 million people still unemployed, the impact of unemploy- ment remains fresh on the minds of many. Forced lifestyle changes, home foreclosures and families fighting to stay together are just a few of many well-known side effects of a poor econ- omy that is only gradually recovering. One lesser known side effect of the
sagging economy could be the negative impact it’s having on the sleeping pat- terns of millions of men and women. In an effort to find any job that can help pay the bills or even keep their existing jobs, more and more men and women are willing to work any available shifts. This has caused men and women ac- customed to a standard work schedule, be it 9 to 5 or 4 to 12 or overnight, to rotate work shifts. Men and women used to working 9 to 5, for instance, are finding themselves increasingly open to accepting a night shift one day and a day shift the next, all in an effort to land or keep a job.
While this flexibility is understand-
able, it could be making individuals more susceptible to a sleeping disorder known as Shift Work Sleep Disorder, or SWSD. SWSD can affect people who frequently rotate shifts or work at night. Such changes go against the body’s natural circadian rhythm, and men and women often struggle to get a decent night’s sleep as a result. The American Sleep Association notes that the circadian rhythm oper- ates on a nearly exact 24 hour cycle, governing when the body should feel tired or alert and when a person should eat and perform other tasks. This is a natural cycle, and one that exists in plants and animals as well. When this rhythm is consistently interrupted, as it is when a person frequently rotates shifts at work, the side effects are numerous and can make it very dif- ficult for men and women to function properly.
Symptoms of SWSD The most common symptoms of SWSD are excessive tiredness and insomnia. When a person is exces- sively tired, no aspect of their life is likely to go unaffected. A person
Side Effects of SWSD
An increase in accidents is one of the major side effects of SWSD. It only stands to reason that an exces- sively tired worker, whatever his or her profession, may be more prone to accidents.
Another side of SWSD is irritability and mood problems. Men and women who are not getting adequate sleep are more likely to be irritable and moody.
Dealing With SWSD Plus Sized May Actually Be Real Sized
Thanks to rising obesity levels, doctors and health of- ficials are warning individuals to slim down. But those embracing their current size still need to shop for clothing. Some retailers are realizing it could mean big business if they make a few tweaks for the “plus-sized”market. It’s hard to ignore the consensus that the general public is getting heavier. Doctors and other experts warn about obesity statistics and blame them on everything from sedentary lifestyles to the increased consumption of fast foods. Whatever the case behind the “growing” public, the fact remains that there are millions of average women out there who have to dress themselves. Unfortunately, many women find the offerings for the “plus-sized” market are not as diverse or as available as those for women who are smaller sizes. The average American and Canadian woman wears a dress size between 12 and 14, yet these sizes are often in short supply for mainstream retailers. Also, larger sizes are often buried in the back of stores and labeled “plus” or “women’s.” This can make it off-putting for shoppers. Some shoppers feel the clothing should be renamed as “real size” -- considering the average size of shoppers -- or not given a different term at all. According to reports published in Womens Wear
Daily, the New York industry newspaper for all things fashion, despite size 14 being the average size for the American woman, it’s actually the least purchased size for many manufacturers. Why does this occur? There are a number of theories. Some believe that women who used to be a smaller size and have gained weight after a child or through aging may not be ready to accept that their size 8 or 10 is now a 12 or 14. Therefore, they settle for items that already exist in their wardrobes or opt for clothing with ambiguous sizes, like “large” or “extra-large.” The size 14 jeans and tops are ignored. Other hypotheses state that the relative style
and availability of plus-sized clothing makes shopping for these items a cause of stress for women. Certain retailers do no carry sizes above a certain number. For example, when brows- ing online at Hollister Co., women can select pants and shorts sizes only up to 11. Women have to look elsewhere for clothing that can fit larger sizes. These stores may not be perceived as trendy or as current as others. Cost is another big factor. Plus-size clothing typically costs more, whether it is purchased in a store that specializes in larger-sized clothes or a department store that offers a wide variety of sizes. That’s because larger clothing requires more fabric and different manufacturing tech- niques. Machines that produce smaller sizes may not be able to accommodate larger sizes. Some of these manufacturing costs can be passed on to consumers. It’s also a matter of supply and
demand. Because the demand is high and the availability low, plus-sized retailers can essentially charge what they want.
According to a report by The New York Times, the stan- dard clothing sizes are fitting fewer and fewer people and sales are declining as a result. From April 2009 to April 2010, the plus-size market increased 1.4 percent while overall women’s apparel declined 0.8 percent, according to NPD, a market research group. Recognizing this, some clothing retailers are re-evaluating their plus-sized offer- ings, attempting to make them more available or more trendy.
Retail giant Target unveiled its Pure Energy line last summer, which offers contemporary styles for the plus- sized shoppers, and other retailers are thinking about whether they should switch plus-sized clothing from being only available online to being back in retail spaces. Although the plus-sized market has been around for some time, mass-market retailers are still slow to realize the buying potential of these underserved customers.
healthy body, mind, and spirit. The Economy Could Be Affecting Your Sleep Patterns
dealing with SWSD will have difficulty concentrating and lack energy. This is especially troubling, as shift work posi- tions exist in nearly every sector and often demand a worker’s concentration and alertness. Manufacturing posi- tions, which often put workers’ lives in danger, are the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of shift work jobs. However, doctors, nurses, police officers, and firefighters are additional professions that utilize shifts. Excessive- ly sleepy doctors who are struggling to concentrate can be a frightening pros- pect, as is an auto plant worker who’s struggling to stay focused on the job.
The sagging economy has forced
many people to accept SWSD. After all, many are willing to sacrifice a good night’s sleep in order to keep a roof over their family’s heads and food on the dinner table. However, men and women who plan to continue rotating shifts or taking overnight shifts need to recognize the importance of making sleep a priority. The American Sleep As- sociation recommends people consult their doctor or a sleep specialist for ad- vice of reducing the effects of circadian rhythm sleep disorders. Another approach is to consult fam- ily members and ask for their help in creating a quiet and peaceful setting in which you can sleep. In homes with young children, this can include informing children that the house must remain quiet while Mom or Dad are asleep. This involves avoiding noisy ac- tivities like vacuuming, washing dishes or hosting guests.
SWSD has become a reality for men
and women forced to work any shift to support their household in a trying economic time. To learn more about SWSD, visit the American Association at www.sleepassociation.org
A willingness to work any shift and sacrifice a good night’s rest just to stay afloat financially could be putting many workers at increased risk for accidents.
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