It’s 9 p.m. and the alarm goes off. Instead of crawling under the covers for a good night’s sleep, Sandra prepares for work - her day is just beginning. She drives to work trying to stay awake, and despite the cup (make that cups) of coffee, she has trouble concentrating with work. When she gets home, the sun shines brighter than usual, preventing her from getting enough shut-eye. And so the cycle goes.
Sandra works on shifts as a nurse in the community hospital. On some weeks, she gets lucky and gets scheduled during the day. On other weeks, like this one, she is assigned from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m, sometimes even until 11 a.m.
Sandra, like millions of other shift workers, is at risk for shift work sleep disorder. This is when your work schedule collides with the body’s natural rhythm, forcing you to sleep when you feel alert and work when you feel sleepy.
What other jobs disrupt sleeping?
To avoid downtime and maximise productivity, the manufacturing industry makes their employees work in shifts. The downside: tired and drowsy workers increases the risk of workplace injuries and low quality.
Crime strikes any time of the day. To protect and serve the public, many policemen use rotating shifts. This ensures 24-hour coverage, even during holidays.
To avoid daytime traffic and to manage tight delivery schedules, truck drivers usually take the road at night. However, reports say that roadway crashes are the top cause of work-related deaths in the United States - drowsy driving being a prime factor.
With many bars open around the clock, bartenders and waiters sometimes end up working through the entire night.
Being a new parent beats every other shift job with regards to getting enough sleep. When a newborn wakes up, which happens every couple of hours, the parent wakes up too. It’s very difficult for a new parent to get a solid stretch of sleep until the baby turns 16 weeks.
When should you seek help?
If the symptoms of shift work sleep disorder such as insomnia, fatigue, lack of concentration and irritability have continuously affected your family or work life for over a month, you may need to visit a sleep specialist. Avoiding the doctor’s check-up might lead to the development of stomach problems, heart diseases, and other complicated medical conditions that may increase your health insurance premiums.
If symptoms are severe, you can also consider a career change or a shift change. Don’t let shift work sleep disorder interfere with your health!