A typical shift is scheduled from 9 to 5 and anything outside of this parameter is considered shift work. Shift work has become increasingly popular as the need for increase production intensifies. The global economy continues to drive the need for shift workers.
People who work night shifts and especially those who work the rotating shifts are plagued with insomnia, irritability and a melee of symptoms known as shift work sleep disorder(Swsd). There are sleep centers and diagnosis sleep specialist who specializes in sleep disorders and can help with diagnosis for swsd. A history of sleep difficulties along with sleep patterns and a physical will be part of the assessment.
Treatment for shift work sleep disorder
Treatments for shift work sleep disorder may be two fold. Medication my be prescribed to treat symptoms while behavior therapy will focus on techniques that will improve the chances of getting much needed sleep.
Drug therapies being used in the treatment of swsd are Nuvigil known by its generic name Modafinil. Patients who take Modafinil have small but relevant improvement in the onset of sleepiness as well as improvement in attentiveness. An antidepressant medication known as benzodiazepines are also being used to treat swsd and is used to help patients handle the stress associated with this disorder.
Behavior therapy is used to teach adaptive techniques and develop sleep strategies to help sufferers diminish the symptoms of swsd. It is recommended that shift workers prioritize sleep time by sticking with sleep routines. Family and friends should be on board and refrain from intruding on sleep schedules.
Incorporate day time sleep strategies in your lifestyle. Avoid sunlight before going to bed. Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep every day even on weekends. Wear protective sun glasses that blocks sunlight on your commute home from work. Adhere to the same bed time schedule even on weekends. No caffeine close to bedtime and wear eye masks and ear plug to bed.
Avoid working the night shift for several nights in a row. Take a two day break in between shifts that lasts longer than 5 days. Rotating shifts should be avoided because they are more hazardous than a steady night shift. Long commutes to and from work is never a good idea for shift workers.
To reduce stress and fatigue while on the job, stand or walk around during breaks. Be careful when driving or operating machinery as micro sleep comes on suddenly and lasts for a few seconds.
Health problems that may occur as a result of shift work are heart disease and gastrointestinal disease. The body does not readily adapt to shift work, and there are indications that it might be impossible to adjust the 24 hour rhythmic cycle.
National sleep foundation
Medscape news today
The Sleep Disorders Center at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center