Shift Work Sleep Disorder


As a kid, ever remember complaining about having to wake up so early for school? As you moved up from elementary school to middle school to high school, you most likely had to wake up earlier and earlier so that you wouldn’t miss your school bus, even as your bedtime extended further into the night. Maybe you sighed to yourself at one point, thinking how great it would be if school started in the afternoon or evening instead. Your parents might have told you that it wouldn’t fit well for your body’s biological alarm clock, and they’re right. 

As it stands, your body just isn’t made to go about and do work as productively at certain hours of the day as compared to others. Despite what the night owls might tell you, daytime is better than nighttime for productiveness and our bodies’ overall health. We need the sun to wake our bodies, and artificial lights like light bulbs and computers simply can’t compete with natural light. For full-time workers in the US, the typical work hours are from 7 AM to 5 PM, but one in five of those workers work outside of those usual hours for what is called “shift work,” and 10-40% of them have a shift work sleep disorder. They are either sleeping too little or too much (“Shift work”, 2021). 

Shift workers, in general, get one to a few hours of less sleep than regular workers even with naps at odd times of the day. Some try to squeeze in some sleep during work when it’s bright and sunny out and when their bodies are actually supposed to be brimming with energy compared to nighttime. Others work during nighttime, their bodies made to fight against the sleepiness and drowsiness they naturally feel. Coffee and lights can get a person by, but it’s detrimental to their health and mood overall in the long run; the person is more prone to diseases, over-reliance on caffeine and other stimulants, and having a poor diet (Singth, A., 2020). For immediate effects, however, people are bound to get moody and cranky. With increasing fatigue, alertness shoots down and mistakes in the work environment can be made, whether it’s a decrease in work productivity or efficiency or the increased chances of a safety hazard. These workers are more likely to end up getting insomnia too.

The reverse, oversleeping, also applies. There is nothing like a good night’s sleep—everyone has heard of that. But what about a good day’s sleep? Well, it doesn’t come close. You might sleep longer in order to feel more restful, but some of the drowsiness will persist throughout the day and make the lines between your naptime and working time blurry. When it comes time to go home to your bed, it’ll just be more difficult to sleep at night when you actually try.

During the pandemic, the order of things was changed and switched around to be online or remote instead of in-person,  and as a result, people’s sleep schedules changed too. As a college student, I and many other students bemoaned about a “lack of motivation” to do our assignments, but if you ask me, going against our bodies’ biological clock might have played a huge role in our lack of desire to do anything.

 

References

Shift work sleep Disorder (SWSD): Symptoms & treatment. (2021, February 25). Retrieved March 22, 2021, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12146-shift-work-sleep-disorder

Singh, A. (2020, October 16). Shift work disorder: Symptoms & risks: Sleep foundations. Retrieved March 22, 2021, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/shift-work-disorder/symptoms

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