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What are the Two Major Symptoms of Shift Work Sleep Disorder?

Shift work sleep disorder is a sleeping condition that is considered a circadian rhythm disorder. Working evening or nighttime hours can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm or natural sleep-wake cycle. This leads to abbreviated rest intervals and an overall loss of sleep.

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The Two Primary Symptoms of Shift Work Disorder

  1. Insomnia. People with shift work disorder often have difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. Specific insomnia symptoms often vary by shift. The early risers often have difficulty falling asleep, while the evening shift workers wake up frequently during the night. Sleep loss with shift work disorder averages one to four hours per night.
  2. Excessive sleepiness. The person may feel fatigued and less alert during the night or early morning hours of work because of shift work disorder. They often feel the need to nap at least once during their shift. Aside from reducing their performance capacity, these impairments can also put their safety at risk.

How is Shift Work Sleep Disorder Diagnosed?

Your doctor will use diagnostic criteria to determine whether you have sleep work disorder. Your doctor will likely ask you a series of questions about your sleep patterns and disturbances as well as what sort of shift you currently work. Your doctor might first rule out conditions such as narcolepsy and obstructive sleep apnea. They might order a sleep study to rule out these, or other, sleep disorders.

What Causes Shift Work Sleep Disorder?

  • Working night shifts
  • Working rotating shifts
  • Working very early morning shifts
  • Working overnight shifts
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Other Symptoms of Shift Work Sleep Disorder

  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Lack of energy
  • Excessive sleepiness during waking hours 
  • Inability to fall asleep or stay asleep
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Headaches
  • Sleep involving an insufficient number of hours
  • Sleep that doesn’t feel adequate
  • Relationship problems

How is Shift Work Sleep Disorder Treated?

Healthy sleep is primarily achieved through lifestyle changes, but some people may turn to sleep aids for assistance. Several workers report that melatonin greatly improves their sleep quality, and it is considered safe. Armodafinil is also used as a treatment for excessive sleepiness caused by sleep apnea, narcolepsy, or shift work sleep disorder.

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