Shift work disorder happens when you have problems with sleep brought about by a work schedule that falls at a time when you are supposed to be sleeping. Basically, it is caused by a conflict between your body clock and work — you have to be in the workplace when your body wants to get some Z’s and you cannot fall asleep when you have the opportunity to hit the sack. Shift work disorder can lead to a variety of other problems.
It’s important to note that not everyone who is forced to work at a different schedule will suffer from shift work disorder. Certainly, it is perfectly normal to have a hard time adjusting to a new shift at work, in particular sleep-wise. Eventually, your body will be able to adapt to such change. There is definitely a problem if you still have a hard time staying awake or falling asleep as necessary after a few weeks of embracing a new work schedule. Seeing a doctor who is specializing in sleep disorders can help you cope with shift work disorder.
Symptoms and Risks
With shift work disorder, you will surely have a hard time enjoying 6 to 8 hours of sleep when you have the chance to get some sleep. Your body clock tells you that it’s time to stay awake when in fact you’re just done with your work and it is your chance to spend the next few hours in dreamland.
Shift work disorder does not necessarily leave you wide awake when it’s time to sleep. Sometimes you may be able to fall asleep, but it’s the kind that isn’t refreshing. Your sleep may be light and you may wake up several times throughout the night. It’s also not unlikely for you to wake up earlier than you should.
As expected, you are likely to suffer from the usual symptoms of being sleep deprived. Aside from affecting your health in a negative way, shift work disorder can also have all sorts of unfavorable impact on your work performance. Lack of energy, excessive sleepiness, headaches, trouble concentrating, irritability — all of these things can surely keep you very far from being productive or an excellent worker.
Having shift work disorder can cause you to make costly mistakes in the workplace, as well as put you at high risk of work-related injuries. Figuring in a road accident is also possible if you have to drive while feeling drowsy. Because of the effects of sleep deprivation on your health, you may have to increase your use of sick times or leaves. Some people with shift work disorder end up abusing alcohol or drugs to help them improve their sleeping habits.
Diagnosis and Treatment
It is very much likely for you to be suffering from shift work disorder if you have the symptoms mentioned earlier, in particular brought about by a change in your work schedule. A doctor who is specializing in sleep disorders will ask you to make a record of your sleeping habits for a couple of weeks. A sleep diary can help an expert determine the best possible treatment course for you.
Also, it is important to let your doctor know about your complete medical history. OTC or prescribed drugs that you are taking, similarly, should also be stated as they can also have an impact on your sleep problem.
Melatonin in the form of supplement may help your body clock adjust appropriately to your new work schedule, allowing you to fall asleep when it’s time to get some sleep. It is also very much possible for your doctor to prescribe sleeping pills. Light therapy, which helps adjust a person’s body clock, is also beneficial for those with shift work disorder as well as other sleep-related problems that are similar to such.