Shift Work Sleep Disorders
If you think that chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension are a product of man's modernization, you may be right. When the world was young and people worked in broad daylight and slept during night-time, there was a lesser prevalence of chronic diseases. Now, a new disease has emerged in urban settings: shift work sleep disorder.
So what is shift work sleep disorder? This is a condition in which a person could not sleep well at night because he or she works late night shifts. People who have been used to nigh shifts often have trouble sleeping in the morning; if they are no longer working, they find it hard to sleep at night, so they wake up the next day not fully rested. Night work disrupts the circadian rhythm of the normal sleep wake cycle of the body. The circadian rhythm is dependent on the hormone melatonin, which is in turn affected by light and dark. Light tells our body to wake up while dark tells our body to sleep. Difficulties happen when you work at night and you sleep during the daytime. Your circadian rhythm is disrupted and you do not feel well rested after sleep.
A study by the Sleep Research Centre in Surrey has discovered the molecular cause of sleep-work disorder. The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and described the changes in the bodies of 22 people who shifted to night shift work. The genes of these people were in chaos due to mistimed sleep, the reason why probably those who work night shifts feel fatigued at most times.
What To Do
If you suspect that you may have shift work sleep disorder, it is best that you seek consult with your doctor. Your doctor may urge you to take note of your sleep in a sleep diary. You may have to undergo sleep studies as well. With a sleep diary, you will be able to take note of how many hours you sleep, the time when you start sleeping and the time when you wake up. Your doctor may instruct you to record this information in your sleep diary for a week or two and will determine whether you need further information or not. If you have sleep disorders, your doctor may refer you to undergo sleep tests in a sleep lab. Your doctor may also prescribe a test known as an actigraphy, wherein the user wears a watch-like device on his or her wrist that measures your movement 24 hours. This device can tell your doctor when you are sleeping and when you are awake.
So why do we need to deal with shift work sleep disorders? This is because experts have studied that disruptions in your circadian rhythm may cause long-term damage to your health. Shift work sleep disorder is dangerous because it can lead to other more complicated medical problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancers. Shift work can also be one source of stress and can increase your risk of having car accidents and work-related accidents. People who lack good quality sleep such as those with this disorder can perform poorly at work and can poorly concentrate on things. Aside from this, people with work shift disorders are prone to develop infections like colds and flu, cancers such as that of the breast and the prostate, high cholesterol levels, heart attacks, and obesity.
However, if you cannot entirely avoid working late nights, you can do the following. You should sleep in a dark and quiet bedroom and take good care of your health by making frequent health checkups and taking supplements. Melatonin supplements can also help. If your room is not too dark, you should wear an eye mask or use black drapes in your windows. Avoid looking at bright things such as the television and the computer screen when you want to sleep. To block out sounds coming from the outside, you can use earplugs. White noise can also help. You should also eat healthy food such as fruits and vegetables. Avoid consuming caffeine and alcohol. Engage in physical activity during the daytime. Avoid stress at work or at home, and tell your family members not to bother you when you are sleeping.
If you want to know more about sleeping soundly, you can check out other articles on this site.