Shift Work

These days, not everyone is working at a typical, nine-to-five job. In fact, this is now a 24×7 world, and many people are performing their jobs during hours that were once unheard of and often experience the symptoms of insomnia and sleep deprivation. There are a lot of people who work late night shifts, often from midnight until seven or eight a.m. This is most frequent in such jobs as nursing, call centers, truck driving, emergency dispatch, and any other profession that requires work during normal sleep hours.

Shift Work Schedule Types

The degree of your shift work sleep problem may depend on what kind of shift you have. One of the worst types of shift work is when a person works multiple shifts. For example, 2 day shifts, 2 night shifts, and between two and four days off in between is one of the most disruptive shift schedules. Our bodies like to have a set schedule, and when that schedule is thrown off in any way, it can cause a number of health problems.

Shift work can have the same effects on people as jet lag, because the body’s natural sleep schedule is interrupted. With multiple shifts, the body barely has enough time to get used to the sleep schedule for the first two days, then the schedule changes again a couple of days later. The shift worker becomes permanently jetlagged and feels sleep deprived.

The effects of sleep work are less pronounced when the person works the same night shift during their work week and then maintains that schedule during their off days. Even losing just one hour of sleep each night can lead to such problems as insomnia, sleep debt, daytime sleepiness, an inability to concentrate and poor memory.

Shift Work And Health

When people are lacking sleep due their work schedule, there are many adverse effects on the body. Often, not getting enough sleep is a direct cause of weight gain, a disrupted sleep schedule can cause shifts in the body’s metabolism decreasing energy and causing a less active lifestyle.

Not only is weight gain common, shift work sleep disorders can lead to a number of serious health conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes and gastrointestinal problems.

Shift Work Disorder Treatment

Strategies to minimize the effects of shift work include:

  • Acknowledge the importance of sleep and maintain as consistent of a sleep schedule as possible.
  • Protect your sleep hours. Your bedtime is everyone else’s daytime, don’t give into distractions that keep you awake when you should be sleeping.
  • Take strategic naps at a regular schedule to supplement your longest block of uninterrupted sleep.
  • Avoid morning sunlight when your shift is over, this sends signals to your brain that it’s time to wake up, making falling to sleep more difficult.

Shift workers have found medications such as Nuvigil (armodafinil) or Provigil (modafinil) helpful in promoting wakefulness during shifts. However, these drugs do not alter your need for sleep. Consult with your doctor to determine if this is an advisable treatment for you.

It is essential that everyone maintain a regular sleep schedule and get enough quality sleep that they require. This will allow them to wake up feeling rested and restored despite shift work.

Essential further reading:

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