Understanding Shift Work Sleep Disorder

swsdThere are many different kinds of sleep disorders, and not a single one of them is pleasant. Fortunately, certain sleep disorders are within your realm of control, given you are willing and able to make some lifestyle changes. One such condition is shift work sleep disorder (SWSD).

Do you suffer from this problem? If you think you might, here is a guide to understanding shift work sleep disorder:

Who Gets Shift Work Sleep Disorder?

As the name suggests, this relatively common sleep disorder occurs in people who work a shift that conflicts with their biochemically-dictated circadian rhythm. The most common work hours associated with shift work sleep disorder are between ten at night and six in the morning. Basically, if you rotate your shifts, or work the night (or “graveyard”) shift, you are susceptible to developing shift work sleep disorder.

What Are The Symptoms?

People who suffer from shift work sleep disorder experience chronic headaches, fatigue, insomnia (when it is actually time to sleep), excessive sleepiness (when you are expected to be awake), and difficulty concentrating. If you continue to experience SWSD over an extended period of time, without treatment, then you will likely suffer from mood swings and emotional instability, as well as an increased likelihood of accidents and mistakes on the job.

How To Avoid Or Treat Shift Work Sleep Disorder

It is extremely important that you establish a healthy sleep cycle whenever possible, outside of your work schedule. This means you should work as few rotating shifts as possible – the less days in a row, the better; try to get as many “normal” work days as you can in between the odd shifts. Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol when you do have time to sleep, as these substances can severely stunt your body’s natural ability to get to sleep and maintain sleep. If you must get your sleep in during the day, then you will need to do whatever you can to convince your body that it is nighttime; that means keeping exposure to light and noise to a minimum.

Of course, not everyone has the luxury of refusing to work an odd shift. If you fall into that group of people whose lives work best around the nighttime work hours, then you need to understand that you are vulnerable to developing shift work sleep disorder. Minimize your risk by making sleep a priority – whenever you can – and by paying close attention to your body’s natural sleep cycle.

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