How is shift work sleep disorder diagnosed? continued...
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.
How can shift work sleep disorder affect your health?
Shift work can increase
stress, and that may make you more likely to get sick.
Lack of sleep from shift work can increase the chance of car accidents and
on-the-job accidents. It also can lead to trouble concentrating at work and
poor job performance.
Experts also have found that shift workers
have a higher chance of getting some health problems, such as colds and the flu, than people who work days.1
Experts don't know exactly why this sleep disorder raises
the risk of health problems. But they suspect that shift work may cause
problems because, if you work at night, your body makes less
melatonin than it needs.
Melatonin is a hormone that helps control sleeping and waking cycles. It also
plays a role in keeping you healthy by making your
immune system strong and preventing the growth of
Light and dark affect how the body makes melatonin. Most
melatonin is made at night. During the day, light tells your body to make less
melatonin. If you work at night in artificial light, your body may be making
less melatonin than it needs.
What can you do to sleep better when you work nights?
Sometimes sleep problems can be fixed only by switching to a regular work
schedule—working in the day and sleeping at night.
But many people
are able to work the night shift by making a few changes. You can help yourself
get good sleep by keeping your sleeping environment dark and quiet and by
taking good care of yourself overall. In some cases, short-term use of prescription medicine or
over-the-counter supplements may help.