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Sleeping Disorders: The Concise Guide to Shift Work Sleep Disorder

October 30, 2018


Sleeping Disorders: A Guide to Shift Work Sleep Disorder

The Bed King team of bed supply specialists are often required to assist individuals with certain sleeping disorders to find a suitable sleeping surface. In previous articles we discussed insomnia, sleep apnea,  restless leg syndrome and hypersomnia; today we discuss shift work sleep disorder - the absence of restorative sleep that is currently considered to be a circadian condition (similar to jet lag).

The Link Between Shift Work & Circadian Sleep Disturbances

First off, let’s define the ‘shift work’ portion of the disorder. Shift work is defined as working hours that fall outside of the traditional 9-5 norm. It is common in industries like healthcare, emergency response, the military, hospitality and food service. Instead of working during regular daylight hours, workers in these industries often work from late at night until the early morning, which means they have to get their rest during daytime.

The symptoms of shift work sleep disorder include:

  • Insomnia
  • Excessive sleepiness & fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Lack of concentration
  • Depression & anxiety
  • Poor concentration & irritability
  • Slow reaction times & microsleep

Research suggest that shift work are linked to these symptoms due to the impact of the body’s natural circadian rhythm. Our brains, the hypothalamus in particular, controls a host of homeostatic bodily processes, which includes the excretion of melatonin (the hormone that is responsible for the onset of sleepiness).

These processes follow a cycle of 24 hours that uses environmental factors like light frequency and temperature to determine the difference between what is called 'biological day' (when it is warmer and light outside) and 'biological night' (when it is dark and less warm). When you do shift work that goes against this grain, it impacts on the excretion of melatonin, which in turn makes it harder to fall asleep, remain asleep and achieve restorative sleep in general.

What Kinds of Treatment are Available?

The most straightforward way of addressing shift work sleep disorder is for the sufferer to organise their life to the best of their ability to achieve sufficient rest. This includes:

  • Working out a sleep schedule that allows them to get at least 7 hours of sleep per 24 hours, and to get their family members and/or roommates who share their living space to agree to keep things quiet during this time.
  • Ensuring that their sleeping space is dark, quiet and cool.
  • Avoiding stimulants like alcohol or nicotine close to bedtime.
  • Avoiding bright light while preparing to sleep.
  • Taking Vitamin D supplements to increase wakefulness throughout the workday.

If these measures are not sufficient, sufferers should seek out a medical professional who may be able to prescribe a suitable pharmaceutical sleeping aid. However, every effort should be made to alter the effects of shift work sleep disorder by natural means first.

The information contained herein is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment in any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition.


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