What are the consequences of shift work disorder?
- Shift work disorder typically results in a decrease in total sleep time of one to four hours and an “unsatisfactory” or non-restorative sleep quality.
- Excessive sleepiness, a consequence of both cumulative sleep loss and decreased circadian alertness, can result in difficulty staying alert, concentrating, remembering things and making decisions, as well as problems with eye-hand coordination, headaches, decreased attention span and increased reaction times.
- In 2005, Kenshu Suzuki, MD, and colleagues reported in their sleep study of nurses that those who were excessively sleepy during the night shift were more likely to make drug administration errors, have needle stick injuries and operate medical equipment incorrectly—mistakes that can impact both patient and nurse. Surveys of medical workers have demonstrated that 41 percent admit to making fatigue-related errors; 19 percent reported that their error worsened a patient’s condition. These findings are consistent with studies demonstrating that experiencing only two hours of sleep loss has the same effect on performance as drinking three alcoholic beverages.
- Individuals with shift work disorder also have increased absenteeism; gastrointestinal and digestive problems such as heartburn and indigestion; heart problems, including an increased risk of heart attacks and hypertension; carcinoma of the breast, uterus and colon; menstrual irregularities; colds and flu; and weight gain.
- Shift workers have more automobile accidents, especially driving to and from work, probably because they’re more likely to drive while fatigued and almost twice as likely to fall asleep at the wheel. In fact, two-thirds of shift workers report driving drowsy after a shift. In addition, associated irritability, impatience and mood disorders such as anxiety and depression can ruin job and family relationships and spoil social activities.
Do you have Shift Work Disorder? Take our quiz. To learn more about shift work disorder and get some tips on how to trick your body into sleeping (when the rest of the world is awake), read all of our Shift Work Disorder Articles series!