Do you know the signs of shift work disorder?

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Are you one of the 30 percent of nurses who work the night shift? If you are, are you frequently tired or do you often find yourself fighting off sleep? Do you have difficulty falling or staying asleep? Do these sleep problems disrupt your social, family or work life? Have these sleep difficulties been present for at least one month?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then read on, because you may have shift work disorder, a type of circadian-rhythm sleep disorder that can adversely impact not only your job performance, but also the quality and even duration of your life. The good news is that by following a few simple recommendations, you can improve your health and well being and get your life back on track again.

What is shift work disorder? The human body naturally follows a “circadian” or approximately 24-hour period of wakefulness and sleepiness, with the desire to sleep strongest between midnight and 6 a.m., and between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Your circadian sleep-wake rhythm, which is linked to nature’s cycle of light and darkness, is regulated by an internal biologic clock located in the suprachiasmatic nuclei of the hypothalamus. Shift work disorder and its consequences occur when you try to stay awake when your internal biologic clock is telling you to sleep, or when you try to sleep when your internal clock wants you to be awake.

What are the major symptoms of shift work disorder?
It should come as no surprise that during the night shift, when your internal clock is saying you should be asleep, you would feel excessively tired, fatigued and less alert. It should be just as easy to understand why you would also have difficulty falling and staying asleep when your body’s sleep-wake rhythm demands you be awake. Thus, the major symptoms of shift work disorder are hypersomnia, or excessive sleepiness, and insomnia.

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Terry Cralle

Terry Cralle is Co-founder and Corporate Vice President of the Keswick Sleep Institute in Charlottesville, Virginia. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from Randolph-Macon College and received her Bachelors of Science in Nursing at the Virginia Commonwealth University and completed a Masters of Science in Healthcare Management with an Emphasis in Healthcare Risk Management from the Finch University of Health Sciences at the Chicago Medical School. Terry is a Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality as well as a Certified Quality Auditor. Terry has had over 20 years experience as a healthcare consultant. She has published on clinical research topics as well as serving as Lecturer at Piedmont Virginia Community College in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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6 Responses to Do you know the signs of shift work disorder?

  1. Kerry

    I always work 2nd and 3rd shift. Recently I started working 1st shift because of a promotion. My new job I have to work all three shifts. 2nd and 3rd is o.k. But 1st shift has been difficult. I been having pains in my chest, feeling like I have to vomit in the mornings and sleeping at the wheel while driving my car. Can you send me a list of doctors that I can choose from so I can get some help?

  2. talk to an undertaker, not a doctor….

  3. jesse

    Work during the day. Sleep during the night……. That is it. Try to reinvent the wheel your asking for problems.

  4. Abby Student

    It’s tempting to say, “just work days,” but: A. New grads or new hirees often have to work overnight B. Someones got to work overnight C. Some people actually do better at night work. I have a friend who calls herself nocturnal for just that reason

  5. neft

    check out this article on shift disorder

  6. Geeknurse93

    I have worked 2nd and 3rd shift for years. Now I’m doing 12 hour shifts 7p-7a and I’m going just fine. I sleep better during the day, always have. I guess I’m just naturally nocturnal.