Sleep Tips for Shift Workers
Get the sleep you need when you work nontraditional hours.
Are you one of the 15 million Americans who work a nontraditional schedule? If so, you're a shift worker -- someone who works hours other than the usual 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. And you should know that a growing body of research suggests shift work puts your health at risk. And that sleep problems unique to shift workers -- called shift-work sleep disorder -- affect about 10% of all shift workers.
So whether you're an emergency room nurse, a safety officer, or a meteorologist monitoring overnight weather, there are steps you can -- and should -- take to help safeguard your health.
Shift work forces your body to go against its natural circadian rhythms. It forces you to be awake at a time when your body naturally wants to sleep. And disrupting the body's natural internal clock for sleep and wakefulness can have some pretty major effects. Not only can shift work lead to insomnia and excessive sleepiness, but also that sleepiness can cause accidents and other problems. In fact, about 50% of workplace accidents can be attributed to excessive sleepiness. Lack of sleep from shift work can have an impact at home, too. Lots of people with shift-work related sleep problems report missing family and social obligations because they're dealing with the fatigue, headaches, and mood changes that come with sleep problems. Shift-work sleep disorders have even been linked to gastrointestinal conditions and heart problems. (Do you have a sleep disorder? Take this quiz to find out.)