Shift Work Sleep Disorder

Shift work sleep disorder occurs when you work during the night and must sleep during the day - yet don't get enough quality sleep. You are also susceptible when you keep strange hours or have jet lag over a period of time and your sleep is compromised.

These interruptions in sleep patterns, which can lead to insomnia, are also known as circadian rhythm sleep disorder. The circadian rhythm is the 24-hour natural cycle of a day.

During this period, most adults require six to eight hours of sleep, usually at night and without interruption. Scientists have found that the circadian rhythms cause us to be sleepy at night.

Job-related irregular work schedules, such as working the night shift, can cause shift work sleep disorder. While many people eventually adjust to a change in schedule, some never do. And, most people have issues related to the change of sleeping hours or sleep amount.

Additionally, airplane travel may cause problems because of changes in time zones, which disrupts the body's biological clock. The body can take several days to adjust to a time change, and this contributes to circadian rhythm disorder.

Trying to sleep during the day when others are awake is often an issue for night workers. Environmental factors such as noise, light, and air quality may exacerbate the problem. Environmental issues can affect the quality of your sleep even if they do not wake you.

Getting enough sleep is important so that you feel well and have a good quality of life. An occasional sleepless night may not cause problems, but people who have jobs that require them to work at night often experience health problems related to lack of sleep.

Problems created by shift work sleep disorder include insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Chronic lack of sleep can lead to more serious health problems, including obesity, heart disease, and dia

Additionally, poor sleep often leads to poor job performance, risk of injury, and irritability.

Treatment Options

To resolve issues with shift work sleep disorder, try to create a regular sleep pattern. If you have recently changed your sleep routine, it may take a few days to readjust to a new schedule.

If you must sleep during the day, make the bedroom as dark as possible and insist on quiet so that you can rest. Earplugs and eye shades may be necessary to ensure healthy sleep. You also should avoid alcohol and caffeine.

In some instances, medication may be required. Discuss this with your physician, who will rule out any underlying health concerns before prescribing any appropriate medication.

You also may need help relaxing. Some alternative choices may help reduce worry about sleep and allow you to relax. You might try:

  • Aromatherapy in the form of oils of chamomile, lavender, rose, or marjoram
  • Massage
  • Herbal therapies such as chamomile, St. John's wort, passionflower, vervain, skullcap, or valerian. These are available for use as teas; some may be found in pill form at local health food retailer.
  • Homeopathy such as nux vomica or ignatia, also available at local health food stores

Additionally, lifestyle changes such as moderate exercise three or four times a week along with yoga, meditation, or guided imagery may be useful. Energetic exercises should not take place close to bedtime. Keep stimulating activities to a minimum prior to going to bed. Instead of watching television, try light reading, quiet conversation, or soft music in order to promote relaxation.

Shift work sleep disorder may cause problems but with a little effort, it can be conquered so that you can wake up refreshed and return to optimum health.

More on Shift Work Sleep Disorder
Sleep Disorders - An Overview
Healthy Sleep Habits
Insomnia Tips

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