Is a sleep disturbance caused by shift work affecting your health?


People who work outside of the typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekday are most commonly affected by the sleep problem known as shift work sleep disorder (SWSD). Most people’s circadian rhythms are disrupted by shift work schedules.

An employee on a shift might work overnights, early mornings, or alternate shifts. Hospitals, transportation, and healthcare are just a few sectors that use shift workers. Shift employment is any job that requires you to work outside of conventional office hours, such as 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. These interruptions, especially late-night work, might affect the circadian rhythm, also known as the sleep-wake cycle.

Response of the Body to the Night Shift

Even the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified working shifts as potentially carcinogenic. According to recent studies, working irregular hours may reduce your life. For nurses who worked rotational shifts for at least five years, the chance of dying from any cause rose by 11%.

Insomnia and mental health issues are more common among shift workers than among non-shift workers. White blood cell counts are higher in shift workers than in non-shift employees, which reduces immunity. Shift employment can interfere with a person’s natural functioning and result in aberrant hormonal or molecular processes.

Switching from midnight to a daytime routine on holidays or when your job schedule changes is another issue. The effects of this transition are similar to those of jet lag. The body must become accustomed to daily sleep disruptions for one hour. That might not be practicable for people who work the night shift.

Symptoms of Shift Work Sleep Disorder

People who struggle to fall asleep due to shift work sleep disorders may wake up exhausted. Some people have trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep. The UCLA Sleep Disorders Center reports that nightshift workers get two to four hours less sleep per day than the overall population.

Additional signs and symptoms might include:

  • Fatigue or malaise.
  • Difficulty paying attention or concentrating.
  • Memory impairment.
  • Mood disturbance or irritability
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness.
  • Hyperactivity, impulsivity, aggression, and other behavioral problems.
  • Reduced motivation, energy, or initiative.
  • Higher risk of errors or accidents.

Treatment for Shift Work Sleep Disorder

Drugs that promote wakefulness, while they can alleviate weariness or insomnia, cannot replace sleep. The wakefulness-promoting drugs modafinil/Modalert and armodafinil have been given licenses by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat shift work issues. It might be simpler to retain concentration throughout your shift if you take these medications an hour before work. Online and over-the-counter pharmacies both sell the medication Modalert. It’s crucial to remember that medications that promote wakefulness cannot totally restore awareness to the point where it is safe to drive or do hazardous tasks at work. Armodafinil(Waklert 150mg) and modafinil both carry the risk of addiction and undesirable side effects.

Shift workers may find it simpler to fall asleep when using benzodiazepines and other sleep-inducing medications. If you use a sleep aid at the beginning of your shift, proceed with caution because further accidents could occur if the drowsiness doesn’t go away right away. Existing sleep problems, such as sleep apnea, could become worse with the use of sleep medicines, which have the potential to become habit-forming. It is advisable to speak with your doctor about the appropriate sleep medication dosage and time for your specific schedule.

While medication for shift work can alleviate weariness or insomnia, it cannot replace sleep. Before starting a new medicine or adjusting your dosage, consult your doctor first.

Managing sleep deprivation and the night shift

Making healthy lifestyle adjustments can assist you in getting the rest you need when your schedule permits, just like with any sleep disorder. If you’re unsure about where to start, give them a try; you might be amazed at how well they work! Shift workers can take a number of actions to ensure they obtain adequate, high-quality sleep even while working the night shift:

  • Try to keep a regular sleep routine, including on days off.
  • If possible, take 48 hours off after a series of shifts.
  • Wear sunglasses when leaving work to minimize sun exposure.
  • Take naps when possible.
  • Limit caffeine intake four hours before bedtime.

How to stay alert and awake during your shift

Nap. Before your shift starts, take a 30-minute nap, and if you can, try to take a few 10- to 20-minute naps throughout the night.

  • Eat small portions throughout the shift.
  • Keep moving.
  • Chat with your co-workers.
  • Be careful with your caffeine intake.

If the aforementioned advice is ineffective, talk to your doctor about what you’re doing to achieve more sleep of higher quality. Consider switching from a night shift to a day shift if it’s feasible for your health. Some report that if they change to a more usual work shift, their sickness symptoms may reduce. However, if insomnia symptoms continue despite altering schedules, a second diagnosis of persistent insomnia disorder may be required. Read more blog