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Sleep and Work Shift Disorders

ask family to avoid loud noisesAROUND 20 PERCENT of workers in the United States work some type of shift work. If your job requires you to rotate shifts often or if you work at night, it could increase your risk of a sleep and work shift disorders.

This condition is chronic and directly linked to your work schedule. It involves the de-synchronization or misalignment in your patterns of sleep, and is therefore believed to be a circadian rhythm sleep disorder. With work shift sleep disorder, you have trouble sleeping when you need, desire or expect it.

Effects of Night Shift Work

As a night shift worker, there are certain lifestyle changes you go through that you may overlook, For instance, you may feel your schedule keeps you isolated from your family and friends, which can make it harder to socialize.

When you first start working night shifts, your circadian rhythm is disrupted which can impair the natural functions of your body. Night shift sleep problems may feel similar to pulling an all-nighter, jet lag or having to adjust to a newborn baby’s schedule.

With a work shift condition, people have a higher rate of sleep-related accidents and absenteeism. They are more depressed or irritable and often struggle with an impaired ability to focus and have poor memory. Their social life and relationships suffer as well.

Researchers have found that shift workers tend to have an increased risk for thesse potential health issues:

    • Insomnia
    • Stress
    • Gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, diarrhea, upset stomach, constipation)
    • Ulcers
    • Decrease in quality of life
    • Obesity
    • Insulin resistance
    • Heart disease
    • Increased risk of vehicle and on-the-job accidents
    • Metabolic syndrome
    • General feelings of poor health

Although a lot of shift workers can adapt well to an irregular scheduled job, there are a lot of employees who work rotating shifts and end up with disrupted patterns of sleep like excessive daytime sleepiness and insomnia.

Types of Occupations Generally Affected

policeman tired from work shift disorderThere are a number of jobs that can lead to night shift sleep problems. Some of the common jobs associated with night shift syndrome include:

    • Firefighters and police officers
    • Healthcare workers (nurses, doctors, EMTs, etc.)
    • Truckers
    • Air traffic controllers
    • Gas station or convenience store attendants
    • Hotel desk clerks
How Graveyard or Rotating Shifts Can Lead to Work Sleep Disorder

Doctors and psychologists are continually learning the effects of these types of conditions and how they affect your cognitive performance in order to come up with methods of treatment to keep you and the public safer.

Your brain and body is conditioned to cool down and relax after dark, and jump into action when morning hits. When you work the graveyard shift (or a rotating shift), the natural rest period of your body is compromised and after a period of time, this can lead to a sleep disorder.

How to Minimize the Negative Effects

There are a number of steps you can take to cope with this condition:

    • Make sleep a priority. Ask your family to create a dark, quiet sleep setting. Ask them to avoid things like dish or clothes washing, vacuuming or other types of activities that are noisy while you are sleeping.
    • Have a healthy diet and include regular exercise in your life.
    • Avoid caffeine or alcohol at least a few hours before it’s time for you to sleep.
    • Take brief 10 to 30 minute naps during your work breaks if possible.

If these steps don’t help, you could benefit from contacting a sleep clinic that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of a number of sleep problems, including night shift sleep disorder.

Although you are among the 20 percent who have to perform shift work, you don’t have to suffer from it.

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