Are You Suffering From Shift Work Sleep Disorder?

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By Sara Westgreen

Nurses are often short on sleep due to long shifts and/or shift work sleep disorder and may find it difficult to communicate clearly and assertively. But even when you’re short on sleep, nurses have to communicate effectively.

With shift work sleep disorder, your sleep routine goes against the natural day and night, which can disrupt your circadian cycle pattern. Shift work sleep disorder is similar to jet lag, which makes it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or get restful sleep.

Symptoms of shift work sleep disorder include:

  • sleep onset insomnia

  • sleep maintenance insomnia

  • fatigue and drowsiness while awake

  • involuntary microsleeps that last for a few seconds

  • poor concentration

  • slow reaction time

  • irritability

  • headaches

  • nausea and indigestion

If you’re not sleeping enough or getting good restorative sleep on a regular basis, your performance and concentration are likely to suffer, which makes it difficult to communicate and avoid mistakes or accidents. Up to 30 percent of shift workers report excessive sleepiness or insomnia and between 10% and 20% of night work employees report falling asleep during their shift.

Shift work sleep disorder can often be treated with a simple schedule change, but that’s not always possible for nurses. However, you can make adjustments, such as staggering your shifts for longer rest periods in between work days, or taking a nap before your shift. You can improve your sleep environment and sleep hygiene to make the most of the sleep you’re able to get. Supplements of Vitamin D or prescription sleep aids may be effective in relieving shift work sleep disorder. With treatment, you can improve concentration, performance, and communication.

In the guide to Shift Work Sleep Disorder, you can learn about the disorder and how you can alleviate symptoms to manage effective communication even when you’re short on sleep.

Author Bio:  Sara Westgreen is a researcher for the sleep science hub She sleeps on a king size bed in Texas, where she defends her territory against cats all night. A mother of three, she enjoys beer, board games, and getting as much sleep as she can get her hands on.


Tuck Sleep Foundation is a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. Tuck has been featured on NBC News, NPR, Lifehacker, and Radiolab and is referenced by many colleges/universities and sleep organizations across the web.
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