Two men and a woman wearing construction vests and yellow hard hats

Sleep Guides for Shift Workers

Shift workers have work schedules that deviate from the traditional 9 to 5 jobs. They're covering shifts that are 24 hours, overnight, or early in the morning. There are a variety of fields that need shift workers such as hospitals, airlines, the police force, firefighters and emergency services, security, retail, and more. According to WebMD, roughly 8.6 million people in the United States perform shift work, and these schedules can lead to shift work disorder.

A construction worker sleeping on the job because of shift worker disorder

What Is Shift Work Disorder?

When workers aren't able to sleep during "normal" hours, they often find it difficult to sleep when they need to because their circadian rhythm—the internal clock that controls your sleep/wake cycle—isn't able to sync with the outside world due to their extended, abnormal work hours. This causes them to feel chronically drowsy when they're awake, and alert when they're trying to sleep. Shift work disorder can cause a wide range of symptoms, including:

  • Lack of Energy
  • Excessive Drowsiness when Awake
  • Unrefreshing Sleep
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty Focusing on Tasks
  • & More

Health Problems Associated with Shift Work Disorder

Sleep problems can lead to a variety of health issues such as heart disease, ulcers, diabetes, obesity, gastrointestinal problems, and more. If you're a shift worker and you're struggling with sleep, it's important to find something that works for you to improve your sleep before it negatively affects your mind and body health. In addition to the potential health risks, shift work disorder can also impair your performance at work. If you frequently experience severe drowsiness at work, you are more susceptible to making mistakes or getting injured at your job.

A young man opening his blackout curtains in the morning

Tips for Combatting the Disorder

Luckily, there are a variety of steps you can take to balance your shift work and your sleep schedule. Everyone is different, so it's important to try out different solutions to see which one is right for you.

To learn more about shift work disorder, visit the American Sleep Association website

  • Follow a sleep schedule: If you abide by a sleep schedule and avoid shifting rotations, your circadian rhythm will be able to adjust to your work hours so you won't feel drowsy while you're awake and you'll be able to get refreshing sleep.
  • Get 7 hours of sleep: Adults need at least 7 hours of sleep to function at full capacity. If needed, try taking a nap before your shift to catch up on any sleep you may have missed out on and to keep yourself from dozing off on the job.
  • Limit interruptions: As a shift worker, it's vital that you get the sleep you need. Try using blackout curtains, silencing your phone, and asking your friends or loved ones to be quiet, so that you can experience an uninterrupted, quality rest.
  • Avoid caffeine: While caffeine is a great energy source at the beginning of your shift, we advise you to stay away from it when you're nearing the end of your shift. Having caffeine before you go to sleep could cause you to feel restless.

If you need to schedule a sleep consultation with Dr. Sitaram or you're in need of another dental treatment, contact our office!

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