Is this topic for you?
This topic is for people who
have trouble sleeping because they work a night shift or rotating shifts. If
you have trouble sleeping because of other reasons, see the topic
What is shift work sleep disorder?
Shift work sleep
disorder is trouble sleeping because you work nights or rotating shifts. You
also may have this problem if you have trouble staying awake or alert when you
are supposed to work your shift. You may not be able to sleep during the day,
and you may not feel rested with the sleep you do get.
sleep disorder involves a problem with your body's 24-hour internal clock, or
circadian rhythm. Light and dark help your body know
when to be active and when to rest. Light is a cue to be awake, while dark
tells your body to sleep. When you work at night and sleep during the day, your
body's internal clock needs to reset to let you sleep during the day. Sometimes
that's hard to do.
This sleep disorder usually is a problem for
people who work all night. But people who work an early morning shift—for
example, starting at 4 a.m.—also may have sleep problems. Rotating shift work
also can be hard. In these shifts, people work the day shift on some days and
the night shift on others.
Getting enough good sleep is not a problem for
everyone who works nights. Many people who work nights get plenty
of restful sleep during the day. Some people are "night owls," and they adjust
well to working at night.
Many people have trouble sleeping once
in a while, especially if they are getting used to a new work shift. But be
sure to talk to your doctor if you have trouble sleeping or you have trouble
staying alert when you are supposed to be awake. You could have a sleep
problem. Or you may have another medical problem that causes
How is shift work sleep disorder diagnosed?
doctor will use a
sleep journal(What is a PDF document?) and possibly
sleep studies to see if you have sleep problems from
shift work. He or she will ask questions about your work hours, when you sleep,
how much you sleep, and how you feel when you wake up. Your doctor also will
ask if you feel very tired or fall asleep while you're at work.
With a sleep journal, you keep track of when you sleep, how much you sleep,
and how you feel when you wake up. You write down this information for a week
or two. Your doctor will look at it when you're done.
several sleep studies you might have so your doctor can find out why you're not
sleeping well. These usually are done in a sleep lab.
doctor thinks that you have shift work sleep disorder, you might have a test
called actigraphy. For this test, you wear a device on your wrist that looks
like a watch. The device measures your movement during the day and at night. It
helps your doctor learn when you are awake and when you are asleep.