Recognize Shift Work Disorder

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by Dr Sophie Bostock

• Does your regular shift work schedule interfere with sleeping during the night?

• Do you experience difficulties sleeping or excessive sleepiness?

• Have you experienced sleep problems for 3 months or more?

If you answer yes to all three of these questions, you may be experiencing Shift Work Disorder (SWD). According to the International Classification of Sleep Disorders, ICSD-3, SWD is a chronic problem of of excessive sleepiness or disturbed sleep as a consequence of shift work. It is often associated with lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, headaches and irritability.

SWD is very common – it is thought to affect between 10 and 38% of rotating and night shift workers, or up to 5% of the general population.

There are other explanations for extreme sleepiness, and before diagnosing SWD, a sleep expert will ask you to use a sleep diary to record your sleep for at least 14 days, including work and rest days, and will look for alternative causes.

If you are concerned that SWD is impacting on your health, safety, work or family life, ask your doctor, or a sleep expert for advice. After taking a sleep history, a sleep expert will be able to advise on how to optimize your personal schedule, including light exposure, and potentially the use of medications.

Next: Sleepio for shift workers

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