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What is Shift Work Sleep Disorder?

Shift work sleep disorder affects people working on rotating shifts or night shifts. Working during the supposed to be sleeping hour goes against the body’s natural circadian rhythm, which may make it tougher for people with these schedules to sleep when they have the opportunity to. When a work schedule conflicts with a sleep schedule, it can cause insomnia and extreme sleepiness. 

Shift work disorder can come from any work cycle if it disrupts your sleep. For example, someone who has to get up extremely early for a long morning commute may also develop the disorder. It’s considered a circadian rhythm sleep disorder because the sleep problems involve the body’s internal clock, which interacts with our external environment to establish a daily sleep-wake cycle.

Symptoms of Shift Work Sleep Disorder

  • Headaches and aches and pains
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Memory issues
  • Slower reaction time
  • Trouble concentrating or performing job functions
  • Strained social relationships

How to Deal With Shift Work Sleep Disorder?

  • Minimize exposure to light on the way home from night shift work to keep morning sunlight from activating the internal clock. 
  • Practice good sleep hygiene by planning and arranging a sleep schedule and by avoiding caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. 
  • Plan a nap before or during the night shift to improve alertness in night shift workers.
  • If you’re too sleepy to drive home from your shift, take a power nap first, or find an alternative ride home.
  • Make sure to have time to sleep and participate in family and social activities.
  • Follow bedtime rituals and try to keep a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends and days off from work.
  • After a string of night shifts, take more than 48 hours off, if possible.
  • Avoid working prolonged shifts and putting in excessive overtime.
  • Sleep aids at times can be prescribed if difficulty sleeping persists despite following the above measures.
  • Appropriate light exposure during the early part of the shift can improve alertness during the shift.
  • Create a quiet, dark and peaceful setting during sleep time at home.
  • Encourage people in the household to avoid noisy activities while you sleep.
  • Maintain a sleep diary to help identify the problem and monitor its progression over time.
  • Manage or reduce the number of night shifts worked in a row. 

How to Diagnose Shift Work Sleep Disorder?

Your doctor will use diagnostic criteria to determine whether you have SWSD. 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. Since SWSD can mimic other sleep disorders, your doctor might first rule out conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea and narcolepsy

Treatment for Shift Work Sleep Disorder

The treatment for this condition includes prescribed medications to keep workers alert during work hours and those to help promote sleep during desired sleep time. These medications can help keep you alert during a shift if you’re extremely tired. However, they can have side effects and might become habit-forming if used over time.

Medication Used for Shift Work Sleep Disorder

Armodafinil. It treats excessive sleepiness caused by sleep apnea, narcolepsy, or shift work sleep disorder. It is the active ingredients found in Artvigil, Nuvigil and Provigil. This medication promotes wakefulness when consumed. Before taking this medication, tell your doctor if you have:

  • High blood pressure, heart disease, or prior heart attack
  • A history of mental illness or psychosis
  • A history of drug or alcohol addiction
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • A heart muscle or valve disorder such as mitral valve prolapsed

Dosage of Armodafinil

Take this medication once a day or as prescribed by doctor. The typical dosage for this medicine is 150mg to 250mg a day. Talk to your doctor if you are breastfeeding, pregnant, or planning to get pregnant before using this prescription.

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