The number of people that are now working during late-night hours, early mornings, or rotating shifts, is now increasing constantly, causing an increment of 16% of the American Population that is now suffering from shift work disorder; along with other sleep issues that attempt to harm their health severely.
A shift work disorder consists basically of having to work during late or early hours when our body feels tired and with the necessity of sleep; and then being awake when we were supposed to be sleeping. This could cause a low work performance because of the excessive fatigue that our body is experimenting.
A shift work disorder affects mainly our circadian rhythm; this is the one that in coordination with the sunlight exposure releases a cortisol hormone that helps our body being awake; and as soon as the night darkness starts to show, our brain begins the production of melatonin hormone which promotes feelings of relaxation; inducing our body to sleep. When we interfere with this natural cycle, it could cause a high impact on our sleep cycle that may even reduce up to 4 hours the average time we should have spent sleeping.
Shift work side effects
Any type of sleep disorder can cause serious health consequences; and suffering from a shift work disorder is not an exception; here are some of the most common side effects:
- Low work performance
- Lack of energy
- Mood issues
- High levels of cholesterol
- Eating disorders
- Abuse of caffeine, alcohol or other substances
- Low concentration
- Higher risk of having accidents
- Increase the risk of suffering from other health problems
These are more complications that may start to appear when people don’t sleep the regular normal amount of hours they are supposed to; and even though it should be difficult to identify when a person is suffering from a shift work disorder, they may need to provide a sleep diary and have sleep study as well, with a certified sleep physician; they will determine what kind of treatment is needed to prevent and reduce the difficulties of this specific disorder.
Tips to maintain our sleep cycle regulated
Some doctors may prescribe some controlled sleeping pills, melatonin supplements, or even a bright-light therapy; nevertheless, all of these treatments need to be mainly administered by a sleep specialist.
And even though there might not seem that a shift work disorder could be controlled; fortunately there is some great advice on how to reduce the impact it has and prevent suffering from any other health problems.
A few advice you could consider when dealing with this specific disorder are:
- Taking as many naps as possible, even if they last 20 or 30 min each, will provide your body enough energy to keep performing all tasks that are required.
- Maintaining the same day and nighttime routine during workdays and days off; will help your sleeping cycle-regulated even if you are not working during late hours.
- Setting up an adequate environment when it is finally time to sleep; with a quiet place, and comfortable bedsheets.
- Avoiding sunlight exposure when you are required to sleep; will avoid any confusion with your circadian rhythm.
- Keeping a moderate consumption of caffeine, because, even though this substance helps us stay alert, it may also cause difficulties to sleep when our bedtime comes exceeded.