What is Shift Work Sleep Disorder and How to Prevent it?
One of the results of rapid globalisation has been the rise in jobs with non-traditional shifts. This includes evenings and nights, early mornings, and/or rotating and split shifts. In the U.S., around 16% of employees are involved in such shifts. India will indeed have similar numbers of even higher, considering we employ many people in the BPO and IT sectors. Due to the nature of the work, people have to reverse their basic human behaviour completely, i.e., they have to work at night and sleep during the day. This can lead to Shift Work Sleep Disorder. People suffering from SWSD experience insomnia and/or excessive daytime sleepiness. But this can be the least of your worries…
How does Shift Work Sleep Disorder affect psychologically?
Most people involved in night-shift jobs lose on an average one to four hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. As a result, this can lead to an obvious ‘sleep debt’. Insomnia affects different people differently depending on their work schedule. For example, if you work between 4 a.m. to 7 a.m., you might face problems with sleep onset, but you work evening shifts, sleep maintenance would be a significant concern. The diagnosis of insomnia includes the experience of certain impairments in the state of wakefulness. These include:
- Difficulty in concentrating, paying attention and retaining memory
- Irritability or mood swings
- Decrease in motivation and energy
- Unwillingness to take initiative
As a result, Shift Work Sleep Disorder can also cause depression and trouble with relationships.
Over time, the problem can build up to serious complications. It can take a toll on your mental health and overall well-being, considerably affect your efficiency and performance at the workplace, as well as put you at a greater risk of committing life-threatening risks, including car accidents.
People also suffer from somewhat of an ‘opposing effect’ of insomnia symptoms. They experience excessive sleepiness when they are awake or when they are supposed to be awake. As part of the ripple effect, the inability to stay sharp and attentive at the job can cause safety hazards for the one affecting and his/her co-workers. Moreover, it can also cause problems in communication with co-workers and difficulty in handling stressful situations. Due to a constant drowsy state, commuting in vehicles can be very risky and cause accidents. What is called ‘drowsy-driving crashes’ most often occur between midnight and 6 a.m. or in the late afternoon, and they usually involve single drivers with no passengers.
What can you do to prevent SWSD?
Maintain a Relaxing Bedroom Environment
The bedroom should be your happy place no matter when you go to bed. Make sure it’s always clean and tidy and feels welcoming. You can also use fragrance products ‘to set the mood. This is especially important for people sleeping during the day. The ideal scenario is a dark, relatively cool, and quiet environment. Tell your family members or roommates beforehand about your schedule and not do anything that might disturb your already troubled sleep.
While sleeping during the day, block the sunlight entirely by drawing the curtains and wearing an eye mask. You can also switch to darker curtains. If there is a lot of noise in your area, wear earplugs and maybe soundproof your room if you have to. The ideal temperature for sleep is between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit. If you can achieve this with an AC, then nothing like it.
Invest in a sleep-friendly mattress
Picking the right mattress is crucial for a comfortable sleeping environment and helps in getting uninterrupted sleep. Choosing the best mattress for sleep disorders
This means choosing the right material that helps in considerably relieving pressure points, including the hips, shoulders, knees and head. Since mattresses also affect the temperature of the person, and temperature fluctuations can cause problems during sleep, breathable materials would solve this issue by regulating temperature and prevent overheating.
The Sleep Company, most widely known for its first-ever SmartGRID mattress, provides the ultimate comfort you desire. It’s adaptive to any body type or size and provides support and comfort to every inch of the body, making it the best mattress for shift workers. SmartGRID also helps in relieving stress at body parts like hips, shoulders to reduce body pains.
SmartGRID mattresses, such as SMART Luxe and SMART Ortho, do not comprise of memory foam and thus, provide 2500 air channels for air circulation to keep you cool. The intelligently designed mattresses are soft at hips and shoulders and firm at the back. This also keeps sagging to a minimum, making them the best mattresses for shift work sleep disorder.
Asia’s first-ever SmartGRID mattress thrives on a technology that aims to bring the benefits of a good night’s sleep to all, especially senior citizens. The Sleep Company comes with many benefits that can make your purchase a sleep-worthy expense. Buy SmartGRID mattress online for sleep disorders.
Follow Healthy Sleep Hygiene
Routine and hygiene play a crucial role in relaxation and inducing sleep. Apart from a restful bedroom environment, as discussed earlier, relaxing pre-bedtime routines such as a hot shower, meditating, or listening to soft, classical music can surely help. As far as hygiene is concerned, please avoid alcohol, caffeine, and heavy metals in the hours leading up to sleep. You should also avoid stressful and stimulating activities, such as physical workouts or discussing emotional or serious issues before bedtime.
An important sleep habit is going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, including day-offs. Adjust your sleep time accordingly: if you are working the night shift, schedule your sleep so that you wake up close to the beginning of the next shift, rather than hitting the bed immediately after returning home. Studies have shown the ‘split nap’ schedule is also effective. According to this method, you sleep for a few hours when you get home, then staying awake for some time and finally take a long nap that ends close to the start of your next shift.
Don’t take it lightly – Seek help if needed
Once you transition to a traditional sleep schedule after your night-shift period at home, you might experience fewer symptoms as your body adjusts with normalcy. However, if this doesn’t happen and the problem persists for two weeks or more, speak to a physician at the earliest.
People working in non-traditional shifts for a long period of time are also at risk of severe medical conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and depression. Erratic sleep cycles can lead to hormonal imbalances, notably cortisol and testosterone. This can, in turn, result in adrenal insufficiency and hypogonadism, respectively. Routine medical check-ups are advisable, even if you don’t experience symptoms of Shift Work Sleep Disorder.