Shift Work Disorder is a sleep disorder, commonly found in those that work odd hours, that disrupts the body’s circadian rhythm and causes insomnia and excessive sleepiness.
While this might seem like an odd disorder shift workers like doctors, factory workers and even air traffic controllers can be scheduled to work nontraditional hours that are not favorable to everyday life or your circadian rhythm and can cause shift work sleep disorder.
What is Shift Work Disorder?
Shift work disorder is a circadian rhythm disorder that causes individuals in professions working non traditional shifts to experience spells of excessive sleepiness and insomnia. It is most commonly diagnosed in individuals that work jobs with irregular shift hours like second and third shift workers.
Shift Work Disorder Symptoms
Only your doctor can diagnose shift work disorder. If you work a shift job and regularly get less than 7 hours of sleep, or have trouble staying awake at the right times schedule an appointment with a sleep specialist near you. Typically people end up feeling tired at home, but wide awake at work!
Some of the most common symptoms of shift work disorder are:
- Feeling sleepy when you should be awake
- Inability to fall asleep when it is time for bed
- Poor quality sleep
- Low energy while awake
- Micro-sleep episodes
What is Micro Sleep?
Micro-sleep are short spells of sleep that occur involuntarily typically caused by sleep deprivation. They can last between fractions of a second all the way up to a few minutes and happen with no warning. Micro-sleeps spells are incredibly dangerous, especially when driving a car or fly an airplane. Often times the person experiencing micro-sleep spells is unaware they are happening and can have difficulty recalling events from the past few minutes.
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Shift Work Disorder Diagnosis
If you think you, a loved one or a coworker might be suffering from shift work disorder it is important to receive a diagnosis and begin treatment before it effects your personal or professional life.
The first step is to answer the question, “Am I experiencing trouble sleeping or staying awake due to my shift work schedule?”. If the answer to this question is yes then it might be time to schedule an appointment with a doctor. Your doctor may ask you to keep a sleep journal for a few weeks before your office visit and may even refer you to a sleep clinic for an overnight stay.
Treatment for Shift Work Disorder
There are two types of treatments for shift work disorder, medical and non medical. Non medical treatments consists of things like regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, a change in work schedule and living a stress free life.
Medical treatments for shift work disorder include medications and sleep aides. Common prescriptions include medications like modafinil. armodafinil and their off brand names to help increase focus and alertness. Other medications may include things like benzodiazepines, sleeping pills and other depressants.