Shift Work Sleep Disorder Question and Answers
If your shift work is affecting your sleep, talk to our team of healthcare providers today at Koala Center for Sleep & TMJ Disorders. For more information call us at one of our clinics today or request an appointment online. We serve patients from all over the USA. Locations in Bloomington IL, Peoria – Dunlap IL, Lafayette IN, Mishawaka IN, Columbia MO, Kansas City MO, El Paso TX, and Wausau WI.
Working a regular nine-to-five job provides a consistent daily schedule, allowing people to wake up and go to bed at the same time every night. Shift work, on the other hand, comes with an irregular schedule and has hours that often change every day. This can make it hard to have a consistent daily routine, and can also pose many sleeping problems. By waking up and going to bed at different times every day, the body is trying to regulate these patterns and can often get tired at varying times, depending on the differences in sleep times. This can make it difficult for someone to go to bed and can also make it difficult for someone to wake up.
Does shift work affect sleep?
Yes, shift work does affect sleep. Shift work disorder is a real, clinically diagnosable medical condition that affects people who work non-traditional schedules. The disorder is characterized by excessive sleepiness when awake and insomnia symptoms when trying to sleep. Even if the symptoms do not develop into a disorder, many shift workers struggle with falling or staying asleep when rest is needed and staying awake during their working hours. Hormonal disruptions of cortisol and testosterone levels can affect the quality of life and result in symptoms such as reduced energy levels, decreased libido, and fatigue.
How is shift work sleep disorder diagnosed?
In order for shift work sleep disorder to be diagnosed, patients must meet the following criteria:
- Experience insomnia symptoms when trying to sleep
- Experience excessive sleepiness while awake
- A reduction in total sleep time due to a work schedule that overlaps into the hours of the night; in most cases, this is 1 to 4 hours a night
- Symptoms consistent with shift work schedule for at least three consecutive months
- Symptoms cannot be attributed to another sleep disorder, poor sleep hygiene, an underlying medical condition, substance abuse, or side effects from medication
A diagnosis for shift work sleep disorder requires a physical exam in order to rule out any other potential causes for these symptoms. The diagnosis for many patients with shift work disorder is based on their sleep history.
What helps with shift work sleep disorder?
There are several lifestyle changes one can make in order to improve shift work sleep disorder. These include:
- Making sleep a priority—shift workers must be willing to make sleep a priority, even if it is bright and sunny outside
- Minimize exposure to light to avoid activating the internal daytime clock inherent in every person
- Adhere to bedtime practices and try to keep a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends and days off from work in order for the body to recognize when it should be tired
- Create a quiet, dark, and peaceful setting for sleeping, which may include blackout curtains, earplugs, soundproof insulation, or white noise machines
What happens if shift work sleep disorder is left untreated?
Shift work sleep disorder can lead to other health complications if left untreated, including increasing the likelihood of:
- Accidents and work-related errors
- Irritability or mood problems
- Poor coping skills and impaired social functioning
- Health-related complaints — including metabolic, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal issues
- Drug and alcohol dependency
At Koala® Center for Sleep & TMJ Disorders, we care about your quality of sleep. Our kind and compassionate professionals are experienced in treating shift work sleep disorders and can help you improve your quality of life. To provide care for as many people as possible, Koala® Center for Sleep & TMJ Disorders has convenient locations near you in Bloomington IL, Peoria – Dunlap IL, Lafayette IN, Mishawaka IN, Columbia MO, Kansas City MO, El Paso TX, and Wausau WI. To find out which Koala® Center for Sleep & TMJ Disorders is closest to you, visit our Locations page! We look forward to serving you!