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does anyone have information that would help overcoming shift sleep disorder?

By May 20, 2010 - 4:34pm
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I am an RN and work nights, 7p to 7a. I try to keep my schedule to 3 consecutive days soo that I can have a stretch of time off. I kept telling myself that I would adjust to to schedule. It has been almost 2 years now and I am still struggling. I am very non functional. I find it almost impossible to stay awake for longer than 3-4 hour increments. And do only those things that are absolutely necessary....like taking and picking kids up from school and/or their functions and often fail at that as well. We probably hold the school record for tardiness. Even worse is when I sleep through picking them up. I set multiple alarms, have friends call to wake me, to no avail. I sleep through it all. For the past year, we have been treating it as depression and ADD but the more I see articles related to shift sleep disorder, I wonder if that's not more of the problem. Any info would be greatly appreciated.

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EmpowHER Guest

Thank you for the input Pat. I will read the full article and keep you posted.

May 20, 2010 - 6:43pm
Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger

Hi Annie - First, thanks for working the night shift! As a recent hospital patient I found the night shift nurses often had more time to spend with me and answered a lot of questions to better help me understand my illness and medical care. They/You really make a difference!

The Cleveland Clinic has a lot of information about handling shift work sleep disorders. Here's some of what they suggest:

How can I deal with SWSD?

Shift workers must be willing to make sleep a priority. People who work shifts other than a 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. routine might have to prepare for sleep even though it might be daylight outside. Prepare your body and mind for sleep. Minimize exposure to light on your way home from work if you are on the night shift to keep morning sunlight from activating your internal "daytime clock." Follow bedtime rituals and try to keep a regular sleep schedule - even on weekends. Go to sleep as soon as possible after work. It is important to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every day.

At home, ask family and friends to help create a quiet and peaceful setting during your sleep time. Have family members wear headphones to listen to music or watch TV. Encourage people in the household to avoid vacuuming, dish washing, and other noisy activities during your sleep time. Put a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the front door so that delivery people and friends will not knock or ring the doorbell.

Some general guidelines for decreasing the effects of SWSD

* Decrease the number of night shifts worked in a row. Shift workers working the night shift sleep less than day workers and become progressively more sleep-deprived over several days. You are more likely to recover from sleep deprivation if you can limit your number of third shifts to five or less, with days off in between. If you work a 12-hour shift, you should limit work to four shifts in a row. After a string of night shifts, you should have more than 48 hours off, if possible.
* Avoid extended work hours. Avoid working prolonged shifts and putting in excessive overtime. Make sure you have time to sleep and participate in family and social activities.
* Avoid long commutes, which can take time away from sleeping.
* Avoid frequently rotating shifts. It is more difficult to deal with rotating shifts than it is to work the same shift for a longer period of time.
* Get enough sleep on your days off. Practice good sleep hygiene by planning and arranging a sleep schedule and by avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. Do not start a night shift with sleep deprivation.
* Caffeine and prescription wake promoting drug such as modafinil (ProvigilĀ®) have some role in promoting wakefulness during work hours. But the best strategy is to get adequate sleep.

For the full article, as well as a link to reach a patient educator to discuss this further, go to: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/sleep_disorders/hic_shift_work_sleep_disorder.aspx

Will you let us know if this helps? Good luck, Pat

May 20, 2010 - 6:05pm
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