More than 22 million Americans work non-traditional schedules, including nights, rotating or on-call shifts. Shift work disorder (SWD) occurs when the work schedule is out of synch with the brains internal sleep clock and it can result in individuals having difficulty adjusting to different sleep and wake schedules. The most common symptoms of shift work disorder are
Difficulty sleeping during sleep times and on off days
Excessive sleepiness during wake time and on the job
Fatigue and loss of energy
Lack of productivity
Increased risk of motor vehicle and work related accidents
Many medical problems are made worse by shift work sleep wake disorder
Shift work disorder can be helped by maintaining a regular sleep- wake schedule even on days off, avoiding wake time activities during scheduled sleep times, and ensuring a quiet dark sleep environment.
Several treatments appear to help with shift workers’ sleep problems, depending on individual needs and circumstances. Working a non-traditional schedule can be challenging, but there are methods to treat and improve shift work disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy in combination with timed light therapy may be of assistance in achieving restful sleep. Additionally, pharmacological treatments such as sleep aids or medications to promote wakefulness may be used to alleviate the symptoms of shift work disorder in some patients.