Shift Work Sleep Disorder definition

A disorder of the natural circadian rhythm that affects people whose sleep disorders are disrupted because they work during the periods that humans naturally go to sleep. The disorder typically manifests as excessive tiredness and insomnia, although the symptoms vary widely depending on the level of disruption to sleep, the type of job being performed, how long the disruption continues for and any contributory factors, such as personal or workplace stress.

Shift work sleep disorder (SWSD) is brought about because the actual work schedule of the individual is misaligned with the body’s natural patterns. Treatments vary considerably – rotating shifts forward, rather than back, is found to be ‘better’ for the body, while gradual changes to the natural sleep schedule to encourage habituation are better than a rapid transition. Bright light treatment may increase the individual’s ability to sleep.

Shift work sleep disorder is one of the potential risk factors of shift works. Other problems that shift workers may be predisposed to include: breast cancer, cluster headaches, ischemic heart disease and stress.