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What Shift Workers Need to Know About Sleep Disorders

March 04, 2016 at 1:16 PM

By Scott Geisler, MD, Physicians' Clinic of Iowa Sleep Medicine Specialist

Most people who work night or overnight shifts are accustomed to feeling a bit tired on the job, especially when they first start or are working rotating shifts. However, did you know that continuous tiredness may be indicating a medical problem?

Ongoing symptoms that interfere with work or family life are not normal. Chronic sleep deprivation is not something you should “just deal with” because you work shifts. It has serious consequences for your health, your relationships, your productivity and your safety.

Symptoms of sleep deprivation are:

  • Excessive sleepiness when you need to be awake.
    • Excessive sleepiness is not the same as a minor lapse in concentration or alertness that many feel during the workday (often caused by lack of movement or unhealthy snacking). If you are excessively sleepy, you feel as though you are fighting to stay awake.
  • Insomnia, or the inability to sleep when you need to.
  • Difficulty concentrating, lack of energy, irritability and/or depression
    • As you can well imagine, those suffering sleep deprivation and the physical and psychological effects of it, will often have trouble with personal relationships.

Treatment includes building a steady routine (as much as possible), along with attempting to best help control sleepiness, which might include scheduled naps, light therapy, creating a better daytime sleeping environment, and, at times, prescription sleep aids.

Every person has his or her own sleep issues, especially when it comes to shift work. If you are struggling with these symptoms and they are affecting your relationships and quality of life, you need to see a doctor.

>>See a list of all of PCI's Sleep Medicine Specialists>>

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