Shift worker’s sleep disorder

Due to time zone differences, shifts are becoming common in Indian companies that provide services to foreign companies in their local business hours.

A common issue faced by professionals working is such companies is the “SHIFT WORKER’S SLEEP DISORDER” aka SWSD.

It most commonly affects the people who work in shifts other than the traditional 9am-5pm shifts- which could be very early morning shifts or night shifts, overnight shifts or rotational shifts.

The main cause of SWSD is that the Shift work schedule goes against the person’s body’s circadian rhythms or the internal biological clock   since the shift work requires people to sleep at biologically inappropriate times of the day.

People can mostly deal with it if they are required to work for such shifts for a short period of time however, long periods of night shifts or evening shifts may cause SWSD.

A few symptoms that are seen in SWSD are-

  • Difficulty sleeping during the non-working times
  • Excessive sleepiness at times during the shift timings.
  • Difficulty concentrating, headaches, or lack of energy at shift timings
  • Reduced alertness
  • Irritability
  • Sleepiness-related accidents at work, while commuting.

A few tips to deal with SWSD are-

  1. It is better to try and not to work a continuous number of night shifts in a row since chances are there that it may cause you to become increasingly more sleep-deprived.
  2. Try to recover the lost good night’s sleep on the weekends or on the off days.
  3. Try to avoid long commutes that take time away from sleeping or arrange for a safe commute such as public transport rather than drive yourself.
  4. Limit caffeine intake. It is alright to take a cup of coffee at the beginning of shift but never take any coffee or tea at the end of the shift lest it makes difficult for you to fall asleep after shift.
  5. Make sure to follow a regular sleep-wake schedule strictly.
  6. Sunlight and darkness are the on and off buttons of your inner biological clock – therefore it is advisable to avoid bright light on the way home from work or after reaching home such as by watching TV or checking phones how much ever tempting it may be.
  7. Once your reach home ,make sure to darken your sleeping place as much as possible by using blackout blinds or heavy curtains to block sunlight.
  8. Keep your workplace brightly lighted to promote alertness. If you’re working the night shift, expose yourself to bright light when in shift, such as that from special light boxes or lamps so to trick your brain into thinking that it is daytime.
  9. Eat regular light meals and plan on your water intake.
  10. If you continue to face difficulties in your shift time, it is best to have a word with your employer and your doctor.

By,

Dr. Afroze Fatima

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12146-shift-work-sleep-disorder

https://www.sleep.org.au/documents/item/2830

https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/circadian-rhythm-disorders-cause#1

http://sleepeducation.org/essentials-in-sleep/shift-work

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2904525/

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