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Shift Work Disorder

It’s estimated that approximately 15 million Americans perform some kind of nonstandard shift work and that some 10% to 25%, or as many as 3.75 million night and/or rotating-shift workers, suffer from Shift Work Disorder (SWD).

According to The National Sleep Foundation’s 2005 Sleep in America poll, shift workers are more likely to suffer from insomnia compared to their day shift counterparts (61% versus 47%) and are more likely to experience excessive daytime sleepiness (30% versus 18%).  Shift workers are also more likely to drive while fatigued and almost twice as likely to fall asleep at the wheel.

Causes of Shift Work Disorder

SWD occurs when the body's internal clock is not in sync with the work schedule. Because of this disruption of the natural Circadian rhythm, people with SWD struggle to stay awake during their waking hours or have trouble sleeping during their sleeping hours. Sleepiness and fatigue in the workplace can lead to poor concentration, absenteeism, errors, accidents, injuries, and fatalities.

While SWD can affect men and women of all ages, some factors may cause even greater problems coping with the symptoms:

  • Age greater than 50 years
  • History of sleep disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease

Signs and Symptoms

  • Disrupted sleep schedule 
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Insomnia 
  • Reduced performance
  • Difficulties with personal relationships
  • Irritability, depression, moodiness

Risks

SWD can lead to other issues including:

  • Trouble focusing
  • Increased irritability
  • Reduced performance at work
  • Accidents related to excessive sleepiness
  • Worsening of heart and stomach disorders

What to Do

If you work irregular hours and your sleep pattern has been disrupted, speak to your physician or one of our sleep specialists, who can help you determine your next steps.