Shift work sleep disorder is a dangerous condition that must be addressed
The situation with insufficient sleep and poor sleep quality in the modern world is in general unfavorable. But people who work night shifts are in particular danger. The body needs to adapt to the non-standard mode, which contradicts its default settings. It’s difficult to deal with sleep disorders caused by such conditions, but there are methods that can help diminish the negative effect of the shift work.
According to recent studies, more than 60% of people who work night shifts get insufficient sleep, 30% of night shift workers suffer from poor quality of sleep, and 9% suffer have insomnia.
Night and shift working schedules are related to high risks for heath, increased stress and depressive states. It affects all aspects of life negatively impacting professional activity, social connections, relationships within the family, and so on.
Doctors are seriously concerned by the spread of shift work sleep disorder (SWSD) which is a type of biological rhythms dysfunction occurring when the internal clock are in contradiction with the working schedule and it is hard for the body to adapt to the flexible sleep and wake cycles.
SWSD causes lower production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for quality sleep. Combined with not a very healthy lifestyle that usually accompanies shift working schedule it leads to the development of diseases. Numerous studies on the matter confirm that SWSD has high risks for health: it affects cardiovascular and nervous system, digestive tract organs, reproductive system, metabolism, and contributes to mental disorders development. There are some data that night shifts can even be responsible for higher risk of cancer development.
Symptoms of SWSD
The risk zone includes medical workers, employees of transport enterprises, aircraft crews, guides, rescuers, military, police, security companies and other people who work 12 or 24 hours. But symptoms of SWSD can be observed not only in night shift workers but also people with unstable, flexible working schedule even if working hours fall for the mornings and daytime.
Many of the symptoms are similar to jetlag. Here are the main ones:
- You sleep for 4-6 hours and cannot get back to sleep while the sufficient sleep time per day is 7-8 hours.
- You have trouble falling asleep.
- You have shallow sleep, can awake several times and wakeup with the feeling still sleepy.
- You always want to sleep during the day.
- You have micro sleeps without even noticing (it is a very dangerous symptom for drivers, heavy machinery operations, aircraft pilots, etc.)
- You have frequent mood swings, irritability, anxiety, and so on.
- It is hard for you to focus on solving current tasks.
- You feel physically or mentally exhausted.
How can you cope with SWSD and its negative consequences?
There is no better way to cope with SWSD than changing your working schedule and avoiding night shifts. But in most cases, it’s not an option. However, you can better your health and how you feel:
- Ensure that your bedroom is quiet and dark especially if you sleep during the day. Use blackout curtains, provide good sound insulation. Talk to family members and ask them not to disturb you while you sleep or make noise in the house. Turn off the phone.
- Limit intake of alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, at least three hours before bedtime.
- Try to eat healthily, avoid fast food. You can have a little snack before bedtime.
- Provide yourself the opportunity to nap during a break for 10-30 minutes. This will help to cope with the work.
- Returning from the night shift, wear sunglasses and close the curtains when you arrive home. Exposure to daylight inhibits the formation of melatonin and makes your body stay awake.
- Put away any gadgets at least one hour before going to bed. The blue light that they emit also prevents the formation of melatonin which causes trouble falling asleep.
- Do not oversleep during the weekend. If you try to recoup sleep after a week of undersleeping, oversleeping over the weekend or rest days can only make the problem of circadian rhythms disorder worse.
- Regular sports activity favorably affects the quality of sleep. However, you should not engage in training later than 2-3 hours before bedtime. But a slow walk before bedtime will be useful.
- A warm shower or bath is effective: an increase, and then a decrease in body temperature, contributes to falling asleep.
- Do not deal with the solution of work and other extraneous tasks in bed, i.e. reading e-mail, working with a laptop, etc. The bed should be associated only with rest.
- Ventilate the room before going to bed. It is good if the temperature in the bedroom is a couple of degrees lower than in other rooms.
- During the shifts, if there is a serious problem with sleepiness and inability to focus, you can ask your doctor to prescribe you Modafinil, a safe wakefulness-promoting drug we discuss below.
If you want to sleep during the day:
If you feel tired and sleepy during the day, do not try to fight it. If possible, the best solution is to sleep 20-30 minutes. But even a 5-10 minute sleep will increase your productivity, improve cognitive functions, and help neutralize fatigue.
Please note: daytime sleep for more than 45 minutes will not help to cheer up, but will aggravate lethargy and disrupt circadian rhythms.
A short siesta is best organized after dinner. Immediately after waking up, a cup of coffee or tea will help to cheer up. Now you can start working with renewed vigor.
Medications that can help you with SWSD
SWSD is a condition that sometime requires the use of medications. If you are diagnosed with the condition, you can easily get a prescription for sleeping pills and wakefulness-promoting agents such as Adderall or Modafinil-based drugs. The second one is the better option. See the comparison below.
As you can see, Modafinil is much safer than amphetamines and also requires a single pill use per day. You can get the drug with a prescription at your local drugstores or order Modafinil cheap from our online pharmacy without a prescription.