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Night work: tools to sleep better

Over a third of Quebecers work nights. People who, for example, fly aircrafts, drive ambulances, fight fires and care for patients in hospital are all putting their health at risk. Working atypical hours can lead to sleep disturbances that have a negative impact on vigilance and metabolism and often cause health issues such as weight gain, insulin resistance and cardiovascular conditions. Circadian rhythm disorders can also trigger the development of certain cancers. About 20% of people who work night shifts experience severe health and adjustment issues that force them to give up their jobs.

Researchers at the Centre for Advanced Research in Sleep Medicine (CARSM) at the CIUSS du Nord-de-l’Île-de-Montréal have created a number of tools to help people better manage the impacts on their work schedules. Marie Dumont, professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Université de Montréal, developed Coping Better with Night Work—a free online platform for tablets and PCs based on over 30 years of research. The tool’s interactive modules help users identify the obstacles to sound sleep and offer strategies to sleep better.

The platform was especially busy during the pandemic, and so was the Sleep On It! Canadian public health campaign for better sleep. Launched by the Canadian Sleep and Circadian Network (CSCN), the site is overseen by Julie Carrier, professor in the Department of Psychology at Université de Montréal and researcher at the CARSM. The popularity isn’t surprising: a survey of health workers conducted by CARSM experts revealed high rates of insomnia (over a third), anxiety (45%) and depressive symptoms (50%).

With 40,000 consultations between March and May 2020, the Sleep On It! campaign was so successful that the CSCN designed a cognitive behavioural intervention tool adapted to the needs of health care professionals who work atypical hours.