Not only do Americans, on average, work longer hours than people in other nations, but they are also more likely to work at odd hours.
Over one-quarter of the US workforce does at least some of the work between 10 PM and 6 AM. On top of that, about 16% of American workers work nontraditional shifts on the job.
While there are some advantages to working the night shift or having an irregular schedule, one drawback is the way that they can negatively impact your sleep.
Has working at odd hours affected your sleep? Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about shift work sleep disorder.
What Is Shift Work Sleep Disorder?
If you experience sleep problems that are caused by working irregular or long hours, then this is known as shift work sleep disorder. This is a circadian rhythm sleep disorder that primarily impacts workers that have early morning, night, or rotating shifts. Technically, though, “shift work” refers to work schedules that occur outside of the traditional hours of 7 AM to 6 PM.
If an individual does not treat their shift work sleep disorder, it can end up leading to major health issues. Getting enough sleep and getting quality sleep are both important factors in your overall health. People who are experiencing this sleep disorder also might be at a higher risk of being in a workplace accident or committing an error on the job.
Why does this sleep disorder occur?
Basically, your body has a “biological clock” known as the circadian rhythm. This is the regulating force that determines when you feel wakeful and when you feel sleepy throughout the day. When the circadian rhythm is thrown off, you can experience changes in your alertness, sleepiness, hormone levels, body temperature, and hunger.
Sleep work shift disorder is not uncommon among people who work nontraditional hours. It is estimated by The Cleveland Clinic that disorder is experienced between 10 to 40% of shift workers.
What Are the Symptoms of Shift Work Sleep Disorder?
The symptoms of shift work sleep disorder can seriously disrupt your daily life. Some of the symptoms that an individual experiencing this condition might have include:
- Excessive sleepiness both at work and at home
- Insomnia makes it impossible to get enough sleep
- Difficulty concentrating
- That doesn’t feel refreshing or feels incomplete
- Lack of energy
- Relationship troubles
- Dizziness or depression
(Are you wondering about your depression treatment options? If so, learn more about depression treatment in Orange County, California here.)
If you have experienced any of the symptoms, maybe you have wondered whether or not you have chronic fatigue. One cause of chronic fatigue is sleep disorders. It can also be caused by medical problems or mental health issues.
In order to receive a chronic fatigue syndrome diagnosis, your experience must fit certain criteria. In order for your fatigue to be considered chronic, it must be:
- Not substantially alleviated by rest
- So severe that interferes with your ability to participate in activities that you use to participate in
- Worsened by physical, emotional, or mental exertion
- Not lifelong, of new or definite onset
In order to be diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, an individual also needs to experience one of the following symptoms:
- Dizziness that gets worse from sitting to standing or moving from lying down
- Difficulties with focus, concentration, and memory
In order for your fatigue to be considered chronic, the symptoms must occur at least half of the time at least moderate intensity. Also, they must last for at least six months.
If you have been experiencing what you believe is chronic fatigue and you work irregular hours, it’s possible that you are suffering from shift work sleep disorder.
Shift Work Sleep Disorder Treatment and Tips For Coping
If you have shift work sleep disorder, there are a number of lifestyle changes that you can make to manage the disorder and help you cope. While you might not be able to switch your work schedule, the following are some of the changes you can make to help ensure you are getting the quantity and quality of sleep you need:
- Do your best to maintain a regular sleep schedule even on your off days
- When you are leaving work, wear sunglasses in order to minimize your exposure to the sun
- Take 48 hours off after a series of shifts if possible
- Take naps when you can
- Eat a healthy diet full of vegetables and fruits
- Don’t drink any caffeine in the four hours before you go to bed
- Use blackout curtains to make your bedroom dark when you sleep and/or wear a sleep mask
- Communicate with the people that you live with about your sleep schedule and ask them to avoid making excessive noise when you are sleeping
- Adopt healthy before bed rituals
- Take melatonin
- Use white noise, listen to relaxing music, or wear earplugs while sleeping
- Use a lightbox for light therapy before work
- Nap before your shift for 30 to 60 minutes
- Don’t look at right screens of any kind for at least an hour before you go to sleep
Making these lifestyle adjustments are the most effective way to achieve regular healthy sleep. Some people, however, might choose to date. Many people find melatonin to help improve the quality of the and it is considered a safe supplement.
If you do choose to use sedatives or hypnotics, it’s important to only use them for short periods of time and sparingly. This type of medication has to be prescribed by a doctor.
Shift Work Sleep Disorder Can Negatively Impact Your Mental Health
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