(Updated at Mar 23 / 2023)
What is shift work sleep disorder and how to deal with it?
The symptoms of shift-work sleep disorder (SWSD) are definitely familiar to those who work night shifts even if they don’t know that they have a name. The thing is that the medical officials recognize and even approve drugs for the internal clock violation in night shift workers even if people themselves blame insomnia or sleepiness during the working hours on poor regimen and do not think that they need any treatment.
What are the symptoms of shift work sleep disorder?
Shift work sleep disorder symptoms may seem like the symptoms of exhaustion. So it is reasonable to talk about the disorder if you have night shifts at least two three times a week and have the symptoms persistent for several months and there are no other conditions that can cause them.
The symptoms are:
- Sleepiness during the night working hours even if you have had sufficient rest during the day;
- Insomnia, trouble falling asleep or inability to sleep for more than 6 hours in a row.
- Sleep seems to not help with fatigue and sleepiness.
- Difficulty focusing.
- Chronic fatigue.
- Irritability, mood swings, and/or depression.
- Worsening of social relationships.
To see the full picture clear, it is advised to start writing your symptoms in a diary with which you can then go to a doctor to get diagnosed.
How is SWSD diagnosed?
The diagnosis is made based on the complaints about the symptoms listed above and the use of certain tests aimed to identify the gap between the normal circadian rhythm and the hours you are awake and sleep patterns tests:
- Actigraphy. This test method requires you to wear a sensor that tracks your sleeping and active hours and helps the doctor see the discrepancy between your schedule and the normal circadian rhythm.
- Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) helps analyzing the onset of sleepiness after sleep or short nap.
- Polysomnography (PSG) is sleep tests showing multiple indicators of its quality such as length of the deep and shallow sleep, the time of onset of shallow sleep, and so on what helps diagnosing sleepiness disorder and decide on the prescribed treatment.
Although it is not necessary to undergo all of the mentioned tests if you are have been a long-time night shift worker and have the typical symptoms. In most cases it is sufficient for a doctor to make the diagnosis and give you a prescription for wakefulness-promoting drugs such as Armod (Armodafinil) and sedatives to ensure you have qualitative sleep.
Why is SWSD dangerous?
There are two sides of SWSD danger:
- Harm to the health and personal relationships of an affected individual due to inability to have qualitative sleep and rest. Not only working at night can contribute to the development of diabetes, high blood pressure, and many other conditions, if you suffer from poor sleep and insomnia, your body also cannot recover from the stress of night work.
- Risks of accidents at the workplace arising from reduced productivity, alertness, ability to focus, and lowering of all other cognitive functions. It is especially relevant for such specialists working in police, military, healthcare, firefighters, air traffic controllers, and so on.
To solve these problems, an individual with the symptoms requires safe wakefulness-promoting medicines that also ensure cognitive functions enhancement and sleeping pills to sleep sufficiently to let the body recover from the excessive loads.
How is shift work sleep disorder treated?
The optimal solution for SWSD treatment is quitting the job with night shifts. But we all understand that it is impossible for many professions. Thus, it is reasonable to ask your healthcare provider to prescribe you special medicines that can help you both get sufficient rest from the qualitative sleep and wakefulness-promoting medicines not to lose your productivity at work and lower the risk accidents.
Here you can find the comparison of the main features of wakefulness-promoting drugs important for patients:
Is contraindicated to:
- Pregnant women;
- People with severe heart conditions;
- Intolerance of the drug;
- In active liver cirrhosis.
Is contraindicated to:
-Intolerance of the drug;
- Pregnant women;
- History of drug abuse;
- People with heart diseases or hypertension;
- People with anxiety;
- People with arteriosclerosis;
- People with glaucoma;
- People with thyroid dysfunction;
- People who use MAO inhibitors;
- People with anorexia nervosa;
- People with bipolar disorder;
- People with depression;
- People with high arterial pressure;
- People with liver or kidney disease;
- People with psychotic disorders;
- People with Raynaud’s syndrome;
- People with seizures;
- People with Tourette syndrome.
Is contraindicated in:
- Intolerance of caffeine, other xanthine derivatives;
- Pregnancy and lactation;
- Cardiovascular diseases;
- Age over 60 years.
Rarely causes side effects. The side effects that have been reported:
- Insomnia (if the pill is taken less than 8 hours before going to bed);
- In very rare cases, allergy can develop.
Adderall use is frequently related with the occurrence of adverse effects such as:
- Dry mouth,
- Addiction development,
- Digestive tract dysfunction,
- Loss of appetite;
- Irritability and nervousness;
- Low sex drive;
- Erectile dysfunction;
- Panic attacks;
- Elevation of blood pressure.
Caffeine can cause:
- Elevation of the blood tension,
- Angina-like symptoms,
- Nausea and vomiting,
- Dysfunction of the digestive tract,
- Flare up of stomach ulcer,
- Kidney dysfunction,
- Allergy of different severity.
- In abrupt use discontinuation – fatigue and excessive sleepiness.
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