Shift work disorder is a sleep disorder that affects an estimated 20% of the population. The symptoms are often chronic and may include insomnia. Shift work disorder can also cause more severe problems like heart disease and diabetes. Employers should be aware of this issue to reduce productivity among employees who suffer from shift work disorder. Shift work disorder is defined as a mismatch between the timing of an individual's sleep-wake schedule and their internal circadian rhythms, which are tied to environmental light/darkness. Shift workers usually experience disruptions in their regular sleep patterns due to working at night or rotating shifts (shift rotations can change every few days). This disruption of circadian rhythms can cause people to have trouble sleeping or excessive sleepiness during the day.
How to recognize Shift-work disorder?
The shift-work disorder affects personal relationships with your family and friends and hurts your job performance. This happens due to lack of focus, irritability toward co-workers, and fatigue throughout the day, leading to errors made while performing tasks you would typically complete effortlessly when feeling well-rested. When left untreated, these symptoms will continue over an extended period, leading many individuals without this condition to question their mental health. They feel there is no reason why one should be experiencing such problems every day when getting enough restful sleep every night.
Shift work disorder is firstly a circadian rhythm sleep disorder that causes an individual to have disrupted sleep patterns. These issues arise due to their changing schedules from working nights/graveyard shifts, rotating shifts, or frequent long-term night shifts, as seen with those in the medical profession, such as doctors and nurses. Symptoms of this condition can become apparent once you begin your job, where you are required to maintain these irregular hours, which will cause insomnia followed by excessive daytime sleepiness after being awake all night. When experiencing shift work disorder, it becomes difficult for one's body clock (circadian rhythms) to adjust accordingly because you feel drowsy during the day but wide awake at night (or vice versa). This even happens, especially when trying to fall asleep, resulting in constant fatigue no matter how much rest they get during the day.
Some studies suggest that those with this sleep disorder may be more likely to develop mental health issues. There's an increased chance of developing depression due to a lack of regular restful sleep and other mental health disorders such as anxiety. This disruption of your body clock can cause you to feel fatigued throughout the day, irritability at night while falling asleep, difficulty concentrating on work or tasks are given to them during their shift, and mood swings.
Shift work sleep disorder symptoms:
- Frequent awakenings: If you have a shift work disorder, your sleep schedule may be so disrupted that you are waking up frequently during the night. It is a sign of low sleep quality and one of the main symptoms of shift work disorder. This can interfere with getting enough restorative sleep and make it difficult to get up in time for work or other activities. Waking up regularly or being unable to go into deep sleep makes it difficult to stay awake during the day. This can lead to excessive sleepiness and frequent napping, further disrupting the quality of life and productivity at work or school.
- Difficulty concentrating: Sleep deprivation can cause you to have trouble paying attention and focusing on tasks. You may feel foggy or tired, especially during the early part of your shift when sleepiness is at its worst. This makes it difficult to complete routine work such as filing paperwork or following a computer program.
- Irritability: Sleep loss can also affect your emotions, causing irritability that affects both yourself and others around you. Getting enough restorative sleep every night allows people to maintain their normal moods throughout the day without experiencing prolonged periods of stress or anxiety. Difficulties sleeping through the night make it harder for individuals with this disorder to balance their daily lives because they are not getting enough restorative sleep. Mood swings: Mood changes are the result of sleep loss. When you don't get enough rest, your brain doesn't function properly, and it's harder for you to regulate your emotions or control how much stress affects you
- Mood Swings: There are several other symptoms to watch out for, such as mood swings and a lack of interest in sex. Lack of interest in engaging with others can be caused by the effects that sleeplessness has on your brain function, making it harder to interact with those around you. Mood changes may result from stress or anxiety related to work or home life due to this disorder. You might also experience irritability, depression, anger issues, nervousness, trouble concentrating, fatigue, headaches, and nausea.
- Diagnosis: There is no specific test that can be used to diagnose shift work disorder. This is because there isn't an objective measure by which doctors can determine whether someone has insomnia or excessive daytime sleepiness related to their circadian rhythm problems. However, if a person experiences symptoms such as fatigue during certain times of day, they may have this condition. A doctor will need information about the patient's medical history before making any diagnosis.
How to improve your lifestyle to get rid of Shift-Work disorder?
Shift work disorder is a common health issue that affects people who have to change their sleeping patterns and lifestyles to accommodate shift work. This condition can be prevented by:
- Having regular sleep schedules: The best way to prevent shift work disorder is by having a regular sleep schedule. This can be difficult for people who are required to change their sleeping patterns. However, it will reduce the severity of this condition and improve overall health if you do not have any other underlying conditions that make staying awake during the day more dangerous than usual (for example, driving).
- Sleep well before your start time: Another option would be to try and get as much restful sleep as possible before starting on your first day of work. Taking one or two days off before working nights may also help adjust yourself back into an adequate sleep cycle. Avoid using bright lights during these times because they can interfere with your melatonin production, which could make it even harder to adjust your sleeping patterns.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol: Avoid drinking excessive amounts of caffeinated beverages, and alcoholic drinks as these can actually worsen the symptoms associated with shift work disorder if consumed before bedtime. They will also make you more tired during times that would not be considered normal for sleep, which could cause further disruption in your schedule. These substances are not recommended for consumption by anyone who is attempting to avoid insomnia or other types of sleeplessness because they have been known to help people stay awake when their bodies should otherwise be asleep at those hours (for example, nightshift workers).
- Regular exercise: Getting regular exercise throughout the week may also help improve your lifestyle on a long-term basis by improving how well you sleep overall. As always, consult with your doctor to determine what kind of exercise will be most effective for you and when it should take place to adjust your sleeping patterns as little as possible. Exercise is one lifestyle change that solves almost any sleep and lifestyle disorder and is one of the best ways to improve sleep quality. Moreover, regular exercise not only tunes your body with hormonal equilibrium but also fixes your circadian rhythm. Your rotational shifts may have led to a haywire body clock, but exercising during the day or any chance you get (as long as it is not intensive exercise before sleep) can help you improve your sleep.
- Eating a healthy diet: Another way to improve the quality of life associated with having shift work disorder is by eating a nutritious and balanced diet. This means avoiding junk food before bedtime. It has more to do with the timing of your food intake at first, and then you can work your way to improve nutrition. People who already have sleep problems (such as insomnia) stay awake when they would usually be asleep or wake up very early without enough sleep overall. It may also help if you avoid skipping meals altogether because this could make fatigue worse than usual, contributing to adverse health issues such as obesity. Having an unhealthy lifestyle overall could worsen your condition over time, so you must keep up with a healthy diet and exercise plan for the long term.
- Socialize: Another way to improve lifestyle on improving shift work disorder is by socializing with friends or family members during times when people are usually awake (such as during the day). This can help reduce stress levels, preventing some of the adverse effects of having this health issue, such as insomnia. However, make sure not to stay out too late because doing so might interfere with sleep patterns further if they do not allow enough time for a restful sleep before starting one's night shift again!
- Avoid bright lights before sleep: Another way to improve your lifestyle for improving shift work disorder is by avoiding exposure to any artificial light that may interfere with melatonin production. This includes phones, tablets, computers, TVs, or any other electronic devices you are exposed to just before bedtime. Even if these devices have screensavers and dimmed settings, they will still cause a disturbance in one's body clock system. As long as the screen is on, they emit blue light wavelengths, which emulates natural daylight waves coming into our retina. Blue light wavelengths are the same as daylight, and this stops melatonin production in our body, making us feel more awake when we should be sleeping.
- Get a new job: If you cannot change your current work schedule or lifestyle, the final suggestion for improving shift work disorder is finding a different occupation. This may not be easy in some cases because people become accustomed to specific jobs and lifestyles over time. Still, it is an option if other changes are even more challenging and daunting to you. After all, your health is more important than your job, and if your mental and physical well-being is being compromised, you need to find a job that will allow you the lifestyle improvements necessary for good health.
Steps to improve your sleep quality and quantity when making lifestyle changes for Shift work disorder:
A consistent sleep schedule will help your brain and body prepare for sleep. It also helps to go to bed around the same time every night, even on weekends. This can be difficult with shift work, but it will get easier as you adjust to new shifts if you develop this habit. If possible, try not to take naps during the day or early evening hours because those times are usually reserved for sleeping at night when we're supposed to be awake.
- Mental strategies: Keeping a sleep diary can be helpful to track how much time you spend in bed and when your body wakes up. This will allow you to catch patterns between lifestyle factors, such as caffeine intake or alcohol consumption, and night awakenings. If there is no correlation between these things, then it's not going to impact the quality of your sleep that night, but if they do affect waking up, try decreasing them throughout the week, leading into a weekend where you might want to stay out later with friends. Start making small changes during the weekdays while at work, so by Friday or Saturday nights, when you go out with friends for drinks or dinner, staying awake comes more naturally because of all the other good habits from earlier in the week.
- Altering sleep timings: Try to take a nap before work or as soon as you can after arriving home. This is also helpful if you're having night shift insomnia and need help falling asleep during the day, but it shouldn't be used long term! Never rely on power napping - give yourself at least 90 minutes of uninterrupted sleep in the morning, so your body has enough time to complete its usual cycles and fall into deep/REM sleep. If you don't have at least eight hours of good quality sleep per night, then even if it's just 30 minutes by itself will not carry over throughout your whole next day. So, try stopping all caffeine intake around noon, have dinner early so by bedtime, everything clears out from earlier in the evening, and take a warm shower before bed to relax your body and mind.
- Bedtime rituals: A hot bath an hour or less before going to sleep can help you fall asleep faster and induce good dreams that will improve overall sleep quality. This should be especially helpful after having caffeine post noon because now there is no coffee later on in the evening interfering with how quickly you feel tired - allowing yourself some extra guilt-free relaxation time during these few hours between dinner and bedtime.
- Treatment options: Take melatonin supplements around 30 minutes before lights go off at night if you're struggling with adjusting to your new sleep schedule. This will help your circadian rhythm reset itself and fall into a routine where you're able to get enough sleep at night without any insomnia interfering! Good sleep and a proper mindset can help you get rid of shift work disorder through adaptogens. Adaptogens are herbs that are known to improve both mental and physical performance. They do this by artificially increasing endurance despite stress or fatigue, decrease anxiety and depression symptoms, provide resistance against environmental toxins such as pollution, which is why it's essential to place them in your bedroom! They also play an integral role in improving sleep quality by increasing the body's ability to fall asleep while reducing the wake-up time during nighttime periods. Some examples include ashwagandha root extract, Rhodiola Rosea root extract, among other medications. You should always consult your doctor before taking any such medications to improve sleep or circadian rhythm disorders.
Tips to improve sleep quality and quantity for protecting you against shift work disorder:
- Use a premium quality mattress: A high-quality mattress can help you get a good night's sleep and prevent back pain and other aches. As a person with shift work disorder, and an irregular lifestyle, sleep must be hard to come by. Or your sleep may be as irregular as per your shift timings, but that does not mean you should ignore the quality of your sleep. A good mattress can help you get a better night's rest and protect against aches, pains, and stiffness after sleeping for several hours at odd times during the day. However, it is vital to have good bedding in general, which includes an excellent pillow too! Make sure both are clean to improve airflow around your body when you lie down on them. This will prevent the buildup of dust mites, mold spores, or any other allergens that could cause breathing problems by aggravating allergies or causing asthma attacks, among others things. SleepID can help you choose the right mattress for your body and lifestyle, and our high-quality mattresses can make you fall in love with your sleep all over again.
- Use an eye mask: If you have trouble sleeping, using a sleep mask will help block out all light sources. This can include street lights or other artificial lighting depending on your location and when you want to go to bed. This prevents interference with melatonin production and helps suppress cortisol levels since our eyes pick up even low-level light signals that tell them to stay awake.
- Add essential oils for aromatherapy: Adding calming scents like lavender oil or vanilla extract into your bedroom environment can help lull yourself into restful slumber at night. They assist by increasing serotonin levels, which cause relaxation and drowsiness and reduce brain activity, leading to better quality sleep patterns overall and reducing stress levels. These are also why it is essential to keep your room clean and free from dust, dirt, or any other allergens that could cause you breathing problems or aggravate allergies at night when you lie down on them for a couple of hours.
- Use earplugs: If the noise around is disturbing your sleep quality, then using earplugs will help reduce outside interference with sound signals reaching the brain, which can disrupt restful sleep patterns and prevent snoring. This includes household noises like neighbors' dogs barking throughout the night and traffic sounds coming in through an open window, among other disturbances.
Shift work disorder can be a debilitating condition that affects how one functions in their daily life. The best treatment for shift work disorder is to find remedies and treatments that help you get better sleep during the day while also improving your mental health. Some home remedies include using an eye mask, essential oils for aromatherapy, earplugs, or other devices designed to block out noise from around you. These are effective because they promote restful slumber by reducing brain activity and preventing outside interference with sound signals reaching the brain.
In addition to this, it's essential to use best quality mattresses to not aggravate back pain or stiffness after sleeping on them at odd times of the day due to shift work hours. It would help if you also considered getting rid of allergens like dust mites or mold spores in your bedroom to help improve airflow, which will give you a better night's rest. All of these steps together can make shift work disorder easier to manage and reduce its impact on how one functions day-to-day by helping them get sufficient sleep that doesn't disrupt their internal body clock.