Many people who have trouble sleeping and work non-traditional hours suffer from shift work sleep disorders. This disorder is a circadian rhythm sleep disorder. Circadian means a cyclical occurrence, typically throughout 24 hours. The internal rhythms are supposed to make you feel sleepy or alert at regular intervals throughout the day. Exposure to sunlight is one of the factors that help to set your internal clock.
Shift work sleep disorders occur when the internal body’s sleep-wake cycle differs from the person’s actual work schedule. Since the person’s schedule disrupts their natural rhythms, these people typically struggle to stay awake when they are working and have issues sleeping when they need to go to bed. Those who suffer from shift work sleep disorders typically feel the effects before, during and after their days of work.
Shift workers are those who do not work the normal 9am to 5pm schedule. These people end up working late night shifts, early morning shifts or rotating shifts. In comparison to those who work normal shifts, these people get much less sleep on a regular basis; as much as one to four hours less than average. It has been estimated that about 20% of our nation’s workforce are these shift workers. A big reason for this is our society’s demand to have things available to them 24 hours a day.
Some people are at a greater risk for shift work sleep disorder though. These people are 50 years old or greater with diabetes or heart disease. Also, those with a history of sleep disorders or a history of stomach disorders are more likely to end up with this disorder.
The most common symptom of sleep work disorder is excessive sleepiness. Other symptoms include insomnia, disrupted sleep schedules, and sleepiness at work. It can also lead to difficulties with personal relationships, depression, and reduced performances at work and school.
Shift work sleep disorder can lead to other problems. Due to this sleep disorder, people may have sleepiness-related accidents, difficulties focusing, heart and stomach disorder worsening, and increased irritability. It is important to see a doctor if you think you may have this disorder.
Treatments for this disorder are typically discussed with a doctor after a sleep study has been conducted. Sometimes treatments include behavioral therapies or even pharmacological remedies if it may reduce symptoms. An important step to alleviate symptoms would be getting an adequate amount of sleep.