Work Sleep Disorder
According to the International Classification
of Sleep Disorders, a shift work sleep disorder (SWSD) is a circadian
rhythm sleep disorder. Circadian rhythm refers to the 24-hour rhythmic
sleep wake cycle controlled by the sleep center in the brain. It
is considered a disorder because of the frequency with which people
suffer from sleep disturbance and excessive sleepiness in trying
to adapt to shift work schedules.
Causes, incidence & risk
Shift workers are at increased risk for a variety of chronic
illnesses such as cardiovascular (heart) disease and gastrointestinal
problems. Shift workers are also at an increased risk for obstructive
sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder found in approximately 5% of
the general population, but it is 11.6% in the shift work population.
Swift workers are more likely to be sleepy at work,
and sleepiness/fatigue in the work place can lead to poor concentration,
absenteeism, accidents, errors, injuries, and fatalities.
The main complaint for people with SWSD
is excessive sleepiness. Other symptoms include:
- Disrupted sleep schedules
- Reduced performance
- Difficulties with personal relationships
- Irritability/depressed mood
- Decreased memory and concentration
There are tests available for diagnosing shift
work sleep disorder. The diagnosis is made based upon symptoms reported
by the patient and by ruling out other causes of excessive sleepiness
such as thyroid disorders or sleep apnea.
Unfortunately, treatment for SWSD is limited.
Both behavioral and pharmacological (medication) remedies can alleviate
symptoms. Some research indicates that the body may never fully adapt
to swift work, especially for those who switch to a normal weekend
sleep schedule. Getting adequate amounts of sleep while doing shift
work is also important.