I’ve had more than 30 jobs in my life. Some of those jobs have caused me to adopt strange sleeping patterns in an effort to get the sleep I know I need. I’ve done everything from afternoons, overnights and a rotating schedule that changed my working hours every two weeks. I know from my own experience that these varying sleep schedules have had an effect on my mood, appetite and quality of sleep. But how else have these odd sleeping patterns affected my overall health?
Are you a shift worker? Do you know what the risks are associated with working a job that causes you to sleep weird hours? Do you have shift work sleep disorder?
The National Sleep Foundation states that anyone who follows a schedule outside of the normal 9am to 5pm work day is considered a shift worker. In the past, I’ve worked around some interesting schedules and have definitely made sacrifices in terms of my sleep.
The sad truth is that millions of people work shifts like these because it’s good for business in a global economy or they provide an essential service in the wee hours of the night. While this is great news for our ever-connected 24/7 world and the companies that profit from this increased productivity, it’s not so great for employees who work these shifts. As the National Sleep Foundation points out, this type of non-typical shift has “many inherent risks.”
Some of the drawbacks to excessive sleepiness can be:
Not only does being constantly tired affect on-the-job performance, it also has risks in terms of long term health. Shift workers have an increased risk of developing chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and gastrointestinal diseases.
On a personal level, working on a non-traditional schedule can also mean less time with family. My dad worked evenings as a mechanic for years and the only time that we saw him growing up were weekends and before school. He came home after work at close to midnight – well past our bedtime. It wasn’t until high school that we stayed up late enough to see dad come home from work too.
The International Classifications of Sleep Disorders indicates that shift work sleep disorder is a considered a serious sleep disorder because it affects the 24 hour rhythmic output of the human biological clock. People suffer from both sleep disturbance and excessive sleepiness in trying to adapt to a shift work schedule.
Symptoms of shift work sleep disorder
• Excessive sleepiness is probably the most common
• Disrupted sleeping schedules
• Reduced performance
• Difficulties with personal relationships
• Irritability/depressed mood
While understanding shift work sleep disorder is important, the treatment is a little more puzzling. There are some behavioral and pharmacological remedies that may help relieve symptoms, but research indicates the human body may never fully adapt to shift work.
One of the things that always helped me (and I’m still a big fan of today) is the afternoon nap. Getting enough sleep is essential to a healthy life and even a short nap during the day (or on a lunch break) can help you to get through the rest of your shift.
When you’re at home and trying to sleep while the rest of the world is awake, try blackening out your room to create the illusion of night. Avoid things like caffeine and alcohol as they’ll make it harder to sleep and try to stick to the same sleep routine as much as possible, even on weekends.
If you’re a shift worker, you might find some help sleeping with some advice from our Sleep
Are you a shift worker? What do you do to ensure you’re well-rested for work? Are there any tricks or advice you have? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below. We’d love to hear how you can sleep.
Call Us: +1 800-218-3578
Mon-Fri 10am-9pm PST
Sat-Sun 10am-8pm PST