Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD) often occurs when a person works rotating shifts or has been placed on the night shift. This disorder can create sleeping difficulties during your time off and the sleep you do get may leave you feeling unrested. Those who most commonly experience problems with this condition work shifts between 10 PM and 6 AM.
- Difficulty concentrating
- Little to no energy
These are only some of the symptoms that you may experience with this condition. Ignoring the effects of Shift Work Sleep Disorder may lead to other consequences that can affect your health. These consequences include:
- Increased risk of heart attack
- Mood problems
- Weakened immune system
- Increased accidents
- Increased work-related errors
- Increased sick leave
As mentioned before, the biggest cause of Shift Work Sleep Disorder is working rotating shifts and having the inability to sleep through the night. This is because your internal clock, also known as your circadian rhythm is unbalanced.
To confirm that you have SWSD, you need to ensure that you are suffering from this sleep disorder and not actual insomnia. If the inability to sleep is more than occasional, a doctor may need to look into other potential diagnoses. Since the root cause can vary from person to person, you may need to explore some of the things that contribute to your experience with Shift Work Sleep Disorder. For this, a sleep journal can be useful.
- Planned naps (these can range from 10 to 30 minutes, maximum)
- Bright light therapy
- Melatonin treatment
- Modafinil and armodafinil for excessive sleepiness
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine close to bedtime
Because you can’t just up and quit your job, you will need to find a treatment solution that is going to work best for you. A good starting point will be to minimize the amount of caffeine you consume within the four hours before you head off to bed.
Keeping a proper bedtime ritual is going to be important as well. Ensure that you go to bed at the same time each morning and make sure you turn off your phone. You can keep a cell phone on for emergency calls only and this will help you to avoid being woken up unnecessarily.
If you have a lack of time to spend at home to sleep because of long hours at work, try to cut down the hours you work each week. If part of the problem is a long commute, consider moving closer to your job to offset the amount of time that you end up spending in traffic. The more time you can spend getting sound sleep, the better.
In extreme cases, your doctor can also provide you with sleep aids. If you take these medications, make sure that you have at least eight hours that you can devote to sleep. On your days off, it is important that you try to catch up on your sleep, as this will help you to reduce the likelihood of Shift Work Sleep Disorder, potential health problems and accidents.
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