Shift Work Sleep Disorder

When your work schedule collides with your body’s natural circadian rhythm, you are forced to try to sleep when you feel alert and work when you feel drowsy. This puts you at risk for shift work sleep disorder. The symptoms include insomnia, fatigue, irritability, decreased alertness, and trouble concentrating. Shift workers are also more likely to develop stomach problems and heart disease.


Tips for Working at Night

The best way to adapt to shift work is to stick to the same schedule, even on weekends. If this isn’t possible, you’re more likely to feel fatigued when working the night shift. But there are strategies that can help you stay alert. Try to work with others rather than alone. Drink a beverage with caffeine at the start of your shift. Walk around or get some exercise on your break. If napping is an option, give it a try.


When to Seek Help

If you’ve had work-related sleep problems for at least one month — and they have affected your family or work life — a sleep specialist may help. An evaluation can find underlying causes including medical conditions, emotional problems, substance abuse, medications, or poor sleep habits. If a shift work sleep disorder exists, a doctor can determine whether prescription drugs are safe and appropriate, given your personal health history and the risks of side effects.


Tips for Daytime Sleep

Although most people find it tough to sleep during the day, there are some tricks that can help. On your way home from work, wear dark glasses and stay out of the sun. Make your bedroom as dark as possible or wear an eye mask. Use earplugs to block out daytime noise. And create a bedtime ritual, like reading or a taking a bath, to signal to your brain that it’s time to sleep.