Millions of Americans are shift workers. This means they do not work normal office hours from 9 to 5. Instead, they work odd hours such as from 7 am to 3 pm, 3 pm to 11 pm, and 11 pm to 7 am. Most shift workers are nurses, doctors, police officers, fire fighters, or work in warehouses and for companies that need to meet demands 24/7.
However, the people working these jobs suffer from shift work disorder, which is a sleep disorder that can have major health complications. In this article, we’re going to talk about what shift work disorder is and how you can deal with it so it doesn’t affect your health too much.
What is Shift Work Disorder?
Shift work disorder is a sleep disorder caused by going against your body’s circadian rhythm. Our bodies are programmed to fall asleep when the sun sets, it’s a natural reaction and releases chemicals like melatonin to help us sleep.
However, when you work the night shift or have to get up super early, this can cause shift work disorder where it’s difficult to fall asleep when you’re “supposed to” according to your work schedule and you feel tired throughout the day.
Symptoms of Shift Work Disorder
You may think that having shift work disorder just means you’re sleepy all the time and can’t fall asleep when you want to. Unfortunatel, there is much more to the disorder than that.
You can experience headaches, irritability, low energy, and lack of concentration during the day. This can be an extremely dangerous situation if you operate heavy machinery or drive your car.
Shift work disorder can also cause cardiovascular problems, weight gain, and insomnia, which means you cannot fall asleep no matter how hard you try.
If you don’t learn how to manage your sleep schedule while working shifts, your health could suffer from it.
How to Manage Shift Work Disorder
The first thing you need to do when managing shift work disorder is to set a plan for yourself and stick to it. You need to teach your body a new routine that goes against its natural habits. You’re training yourself to fall asleep at different times of the day so you can get the sleep you need.
First, watch your caffeine consumption. Drinking too much caffeine so close to when you need to go to sleep can cause you to stay up, therefore making you even more tired the next day.
Try to keep a consistent work schedule. This may be difficult depending on what type of job you have, but if you can ask to only have night shifts or second shift, then it’ll be easier to create a new routine for your body.
Take naps throughout the day if you feel overly tired. You can do short 20-minute naps every couple of hours or one 90-minute nap to help you feel rejuvenated.
You’ll also want to make sure your sleep environment is good for sleeping. This means the temperature is cool, the room is dark, you don’t have screens on, and your mattress is comfortable.
If your mattress is old and worn down, then it may be time to invest in a new mattress. You’ll be surprised at how much better you sleep on a new mattress that is built to meet your comfort preferences.