There are many industries that require workers to operate around the clock. While some people can adjust to working during hours they are normally asleep and sleeping during hours they are normally awake, others cannot. If your shift or changing shifts is causing loss of sleep and excessive sleepiness, you may have shift work disorder.
Shift work disorder is caused because of a conflict between your work schedule and your body’s normal circadian rhythm, which is more or less matched to the sun. Exposure to light (particularly full-spectrum or sunlight) signals the brain to stop making melatonin, your body’s natural sleep chemical. When light exposure diminishes, your body ramps up melatonin release to help you feel sleepy.
When you work “off” shifts, less exposure to natural light and/or exposure right before you need to sleep causes your body to produce too much melatonin or not enough when it is needed.
Shift work disorder symptoms and risks include:
The cumulative effects of lost sleep increase your risk for infections, depression, anxiety and other health conditions. Shift work disorder can impact your home and family life as well as increase your risk for workplace accidents and drowsy driving.
At-home strategies to address shift work disorder include:
Other strategies may require consultation from a sleep specialist, such as:
The use of all sleep aids should be monitored to ensure they do not conflict with other medications and are not used beyond their recommended or prescribed period.
If you are suffering from a lack of sleep caused by night shifts and/or fluctuating shift schedules, contact Neurology & Sleep Medicine. Dr. Senthil Ramasamy, board-certified sleep specialist, leads patient care. He takes the time to understand your shift work challenges and lifestyle to find the treatment that will best restore the quality and quantity of your sleep.
Contact us to schedule an initial consultation today.