Shift Work Sleep Disorder

Treatment for Shift Work Sleep Disorder in Fort Lauderdale

What is shift work sleep disorder and how can you get treatment for Shift Work Sleep Disorder in Fort Lauderdale?

Shift work sleep disorder is a condition related to a work schedule that disturbs the natural cycle of sleep and wakefulness.  To many hard working professionals and college students, this doesn’t seem like a serious problem.  We are used to staying up late into the night on the weekends and sleeping in the next morning.  We are used to studying all night in school and drinking a lot of coffee the next day.

Driving while tired and working while sleepy seem like normal activities.  We find our thinking to be clouded and unfocused.  Goals are not reached.  We overeat and feel anxious about our lack of productivity.  One possible explanation is a work schedule that disrupts the natural circadian sleep pattern that our brains are accustomed to.  Our brains replenish while we sleep.  It is vitally important that people are able to get quality sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and alert.

It is not a minor issue to have sleep disruptions.  There are real dangers.  Car accidents and work accidents can be expensive and cause damage to property, permanent injury and death.  Then there are the slow, smoldering problems such as lack of productivity, lack of motivation and focus.  Days, months and years can pass until we realize one day that we are not where we want to be in life.

What is the solution to treating shift work sleep disorder?  There are many things that can help, some obvious and some not so obvious.  If a night shift or irregularly scheduled shifts or particularly long shifts at work are causing the problem, a change in schedule or change in workplace or career may be the answer.  Of course, it is easier said then done in many cases.  When a doctor tells a patient that they need to quit their job, the doctor should think how they would feel if given the same order.

There are natural remedies that may be helpful as well.  There is melatonin, a natural sleep aid.  Melatonin may help promote better sleep, even if it is not at the best time in a person’s sleep schedule.  Following habits of good sleep hygiene are also important.  Turn off televisions and electronic devices.  Use the bed only for sleep.  Turn down the lights, pull down the window shades or use an light blocking eye covering.

Another natural remedy that most sufferers of shift work sleep disorder are most likely already familiar with is caffeine.  Drinking coffee upon awakening can help to stimulate the brain and get a person going before work.  It does not seem like a healthy solution, but coffee may actually have many health benefits.  Coffee may protect the liver against disease and cancer, reduce the risk of dementia, lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease as well as boosting the immune system.  Just be careful not to overdo the amount of coffee and especially the cream and sugar.  Two cups daily should be sufficient for health benefits.

Another thing that may be helpful is to take short naps throughout the day or the waking period.  Naps can be refreshing and they give the brain a chance to catch up on much needed quality sleep.  Be careful not to nap for too long.  When a person is very tired, they may feel that they need to take a very long nap.  Napping for more than 20-30 minutes can lead to negative effects of oversleeping and counteract the benefits of napping.

In addition to natural remedies, life and lifestyle changes, there are medical treatments that can be helpful as well.  First, a thorough medical workup should be completed to ensure that there are not other contributing factors.  Routine blood testing can be performed.  If warranted, a special sleep study can be done to see if sleep apnea, an night time breathing problem, is an issue.  It will be helpful for the doctor if the patient keeps a sleep journal to document the schedule of work, sleep and waking time.

There are medications that can be helpful in short term treatment of shift work sleep disorder.  Modafinil, commonly known by the brand name Provigil, is a medication that is approved by the FDA for this specific purpose.  It can improve waking performance by stimulating the wakefulness center of the brain.

There are also sleep aids that can be helpful in promoting quality sleep.  Examples of brand name products include Ambient and Sonata.  A doctor may prescribe a medication to promote wakefulness and another to promote quality sleep.  These medications should be considered short term, temporary solutions.  Solving the underlying issues that cause shift work sleep disorder is the best long term strategy.

If your work schedule is interfering with your ability to get good quality sleep and your waking performance is deteriorating, you may be suffering from the detrimental effects of shift work sleep disorder.