Shift work sleep disorder is a circadian rhythm sleep disorder that occurs due to a work schedule that takes place during the normal sleep period.
This schedule requires you to work when your body wants to sleep. Then you have to try to sleep when your body expects to be awake. The timing of when you sleep and wake is much different than what your internal body clock expects.
This clock controls the “circadian rhythms” in your body. The word “circadian” means to occur in a cycle of about 24 hours. These rhythms make you feel sleepy or alert at regular times every day.
Your internal clock tells your body when it is time to sleep at night. It also tells your body when it is time to be awake during the day. Among other factors, your clock is “set” by your exposure to sunlight.
There are several types of shift work schedules.These include the following:
- Night shifts
- Early-morning shifts
- Rotating shifts
This sleep problem causes you to have trouble sleeping or to be severely tired. It is most often reported due to the night and early-morning shifts.
These workers typically sleep one to four hours less than average. They also feel that the quality of their sleep is very poor. They do not feel refreshed when they wake up. This can hinder their performance at work. It can also make them less alert. This can put them at risk of an injury on the job.
The condition usually lasts as long as you keep a shift work schedule. Once you begin sleeping at a normal time again, the problems tend to go away. In some people, the sleep problems may continue even after the shift work schedule has ended.
The length and severity of the problem varies from person to person. Some people are able to adjust better than others. There are also many different types of work schedules. Some people may only work an overnight shift to cover for a co-worker.
Their sleep problem would be very brief. Others may work a regular night shift. Their problem would be ongoing. Many shift workers also work more hours each week than the average person. This can add fatigue to their sleep problems.
Many early-morning work shifts start between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. These shifts may cause you to have trouble falling asleep or waking up. Those who work a regular evening shift may also have a hard time falling asleep.
Those who work night shifts are likely to become very tired on the job. They may feel a strong urge to take a nap. They also may not think clearly because of a reduced level of alertness. They are more likely to make mistakes.
They tend to sleep during normal nighttime hours on weekends or days off. This makes it even harder for their bodies to adjust to the unusual work hours.
This disorder can also affect you away from the job. You may need to use major portions of your free time to catch up on sleep. This can have a negative impact on your social and family life.
You may also be more irritable. This can hurt your relationships with others. The disorder also increases the risk of drowsy driving. This can lead to an auto accident as you drive home from work.
The disorder may also make stomach or heart disorders worse. Using drugs or alcohol to try to improve sleep can lead to substance abuse.