Sorry, You Probably Have Shift Work Sleep Disorder

People often comment on my ability to operate on very little sleep. My response is not that I don’t require little sleep but rather I have simply mastered the art of living tired. Four hours of sleep two days in a row? No problem! Sometimes, I even embrace the challenge of sleeping less because it allows me to get so much done. Then, one day, I inevitably crash.

As nurses and nurse practitioners our careers lend themselves to odd hours. Unfortunately, this erratic schedule can have some pretty poor affects on our lives. Here to break down the ins and outs of sleeping habits among nurses is the newest ThriveAP intern, and health service administration major, Stephanie Bauer. Here’s what she has to say.

Could you have SWSD, otherwise known as Shift Work Sleep Disorder? 

Have you ever felt like you haven’t gotten enough sleep after working an overnight shift and you have to do it all over again the next day? Dragging yourself out of bed with one leg still nestled in the covers wishing you had just a few more hours’ sleep? Not only do medical workers such as nurse practitioners work night or rotating shifts, there are many jobs out there that require individuals to work these erratic shifts that are detrimental to one’s sleep habits. In fact, according to the New England Journal of Medicine 20% of workers work both of these shifts each and every day!

Could these individuals be at risk for Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD)? Yes, indeed! SWSD is when an individual has trouble sleeping due to working overnight shifts, or rotating shifts. There are many symptoms caused by this type of disorder. Symptoms include the following:

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  • Higher rates of absenteeism
  • Accidents that occur and relate to sleepiness and lack of sleep
  • Memory loss
  • Ability to focus
  • Social life suffers
  • Potential health problems
  • Higher risks for health problems such as ulcers and heart disease

My advice is to make sure you get a good night’s sleep! Here are a few tips for implementing a restful night’s sleep.

  1. Refrain from working multiple night shifts in a row to the point where you feel overwhelmed. Doing so keeps you from being sleep deprived several days in a row. As we all know, you can never catch up on lost sleep.
  2. Limit all types of caffeine or energy products at or near the end of your shift. Even though quite a lot of individuals drink coffee or some sort of caffeine product to get through the day, especially individuals who are working overnight shifts, limiting how much and when it is consumed is important. Limiting caffeine at the end of a shift is a major positive.
  3. Implement a regular sleep schedule. A consistent sleep schedule is a must. A set sleep schedule and regular wake time will help you get the number of hours sleep you need to wake feeling rested the next morning. Keep in mind, each person requires a different amount of sleep, so know your number of hours.
  4. Limit all types of disruptions such as phone calls, friends visiting, etc. By eliminating disruptions you will be able to sleep undisturbed feeling refreshed when you wake for your next shift.
  5. Nap persistently! Like they say, a 10 to 15 minute power nap can improve alertness without the the grogginess that can be associated with taking a longer nap. Research shows that 30 minute naps are the best way to go.
  6. Eat a healthy diet and work physical activity into your schedule. Eating a healthy diet can make you feel better overall, and being physically active makes you more alert. Physical activity can even improve your sleep pattern and help you feel more awake during the day.

Follow these tips and you will be on your way to a more restful night’s sleep!


You Might Also Like: 10 Ways You Know You Work the Night Shift


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