What is shift work sleep disorder (SWSD)?

Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD) is a sleep disorder that affects people who frequently rotate shifts or work at night. Schedules of these people go against the bodys natural Circadian rhythm, and individuals have difficulty adjusting to the different sleep and wake schedule. SWSD consists of a constant or recurrent pattern of sleep interruption that results in insomnia or excessive sleepiness. This disorder is common in people who work non-traditional hours, usually between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.

What are the symptoms of SWSD?
Some shift workers may experience the following symptoms if so it must be discussed with a doctor.

Excessive sleepiness
Difficulty concentrating 
Lack of energy 

What are the consequences of SWSD?

Increased accidents 
Increased work-related errors 
Increased sick leave 
Increased irritability, mood problems, etc. 

How can I deal with SWSD?

Shift workers must be willing to make sleep a priority. People who work shifts other than a 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. routine might have to prepare for sleep even though it might be daylight outside. Prepare your body and mind for sleep. Minimize exposure to light on your way home from work if you are on the night shift to keep morning sunlight from activating your internal "daytime clock." Follow bedtime rituals and try to keep a regular sleep schedule - even on weekends. Go to sleep as soon as possible after work. It is important to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every day. Caffeine should be discontinued for at least four to six hours before sleeping.

Decreasing the effects of SWSD
Caffeine and wake prescription promoting drug have some role in wakefulness during work hours. But the best strategy is to get adequate sleep. 

Avoid long commutes, which can take time away from sleeping.

Avoid extended work hours. Avoid working prolonged shifts and putting in excessive overtime. Make sure you have time to sleep and participate in family and social activities.

Decrease the number of night shifts worked in a row. Shift workers working the night shift sleep less than day workers and become progressively more sleep-deprived over several days. You are more likely to recover from sleep deprivation if you can limit your number of third shifts to five or less, with days off in between. If you work a 12-hour shift, you should limit work to four shifts in a row. After a string of night shifts, you should have more than 48 hours off, if possible. 

Avoid frequently rotating shifts. It is more difficult to deal with rotating shifts than it is to work the same shift for a longer period of time. 

Get enough sleep on your days off. Practice good sleep hygiene by planning and arranging a sleep schedule and by avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. Do not start a night shift with sleep deprivation. 

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