The Shift work sleep disorder (SWSD) is usually seen in people who work through rampant and weird shift hours. In an attempt to keep up with their work timings, such people tend to be careless with sleep schedules in order to stay alert and active at work. This instead leads to problems with the natural circadian rhythm.
SWSD is basically a regular interruption of sleep, which imposes fatigue or insomnia on patients suffering of it. It is a condition most commonly found in people who have jobs with different timings or rotating shifts. However, people working on normal timings may also be victims to this condition, so it is not really predictable.
How to Know If Someone Is Affected By the Shift Work Sleep Disorder
Many people don’t even realize it if they are affected by this disorder. About one quarter of 20 million people are usually affected by shift work sleep disorder. People affected range from many different types of jobs. For example, people working in large industries such as manufacturing, transportation, health care, emergency services, firefighters, power, mining, etc. One thing common to all of these industries is that, they operate around the clock on varying shift rosters.
Working such problematic shift jobs forces the body to function outside its normal circadian rhythm. This makes it impossible for the body to adjust to the odd timings fully. No matter what timings of sleep a person maintains, on every morning sunrise a signal is sent to the brain, telling the person it is time to wake up. People suffering from this disorder live in a constant state of circadian disruption.
Sleep, Health and Lifestyle with Shift Work Sleep Disorder
Shift workers surely find themselves in raw deals when it comes to having enough sleep. They have to force themselves to wake up when the rest of the world is going to sleep. Their bodies really battle with the natural clockwork of the body to adjust to these hard timings. The worst affected people are usually the short rotation shift workers, who have to change their sleep patterns very frequently. Just as their body begins to adapt to certain timings, they are forced to change it all over again. No matter what people may think, sleeping through the day is just not a restful and healthy sleep. The body eventually gets tired of these bad sleep patterns and results in various health problems such as insomnia.
Sleep deprived people are prone to problems like less productivity, indigestion, insomnia and excessive sleepiness, slow body functioning (sluggishness) and many more. It becomes harder to cope with the effects of shift work as people get older, probably due to the body becoming less resilient with age.
Coping Strategies for Shift Work Sleep Disorder
There are a number of coping strategies for people suffering of the shift work sleep disorder. The most important thing people need to keep in mind when coping with the challenges of SWSD is, making sleep a priority and knowing its importance.
- Some people find it very difficult to sleep during the day. Besides going against the circadian rhythm, the effects of sunlight can be very disturbing when trying to sleep. Most people with this disorder prefer moving to isolated parts of the home and try to make the room as dark and quiet as possible. It can be very helpful to avoid sunlight on the way when getting back from work, because the more sunlight one gets exposed to, the more difficult it may become to fall asleep.
- Developing a sleep strategy can be another helpful coping technique. It is important to set and stick to specific sleep timings to be able to cope with the shift work sleep disorder. It is usually helpful to maintain the same shift work sleep routine even on off work days, so that the cycle is not broken. Most importantly, the person should have an uninterrupted sleep, except in cases of emergencies of course. People suffering of SWSD are chronically sleep deprived generally. It is always a great help to be able schedule specific sleep timings.
- People with the shift work sleep disorder should specifically reduce the amount of caffeine intake. This is especially advisable for shift workers. They should limit or cut off the amount of caffeine they take later towards the end of their shifts.
- Using sleeping pills could be helpful too. However, people tend to become too addicted or dependant on them. Upon that, taking sleeping pills daily can lead to other health crisis.
Most shift workers are unable to tolerate working during the late night shifts. People constantly battling with their sleep disorder often prefer to find different jobs. Most importantly, people suffering of the shift work sleep disorder should remember to refrain from ingesting products that include caffeine, nicotine and alcohol.