Shift Work Sleep Disorder

By Britney Glaser - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - 14 percent of Americans do shift work - that is outside of the typical 9 to 5 work day. If you work these odd hours, you know that a good night or day's sleep can be hard to come by, and one looming change could add even more frustration to worn-out workers.

Twice a year we adjust the clocks to keep our internal body clocks aligned with the daylight hours.  But there are 15 million Americans working non-traditional hours who don't enjoy springing forward or falling back.  Lake Charles Memorial Hospital Registered Nurse Dean Sawyer says, "As the years go by, it gets harder to get over a night's work. Earlier in the years I could get an extra hour of sleep and I was okay, now it takes sometimes two or three days to get over a full night's work."

Dean has 30 years of shift -swapping experience as a nurse in Memorial's surgical department.  On top of night versus day shifts, Dean also spends two nights a week on call.  "When we're on call and either have to stay over and finish cases or get called out in the middle of the night," says Dean, "then it can become a problem."

Boyace Harlan with Memorial's Sleep Health Center says the biggest problems shift workers face are frequent sleep disturbances and excessive sleepiness, which can affect more than their job performance.  "Sleep deprivation can cause problems with depression and mood changes," he says, "so it can affect their daily quality of life."

The health obstacles these employees face are so common that there is actually a "Shift Work Sleep Disorder" centering on a disruption in a person's circadian rhythm.  "We have these cues that tell us when to sleep and when to stay awake," says Harlan, "and of course daylight and light tell us to wake up and whenever it's dark, that's a cue for us to sleep."

If you are in a position where your pillow time is in the day time, Harlan suggests simulating night with dark curtains, a cool room and a calming routine to wind down. And if it's been a while since your batteries have felt recharged, make sure you're getting the mind and body rest you need to feel restored.  "Many people could not be getting the good quality sleep, the good restorative sleep - they would be getting sleep, but not rest."

To get a jump start before the end of Daylight Saving Time, change your clocks and routine the day before. Just a friendly reminder: Daylight Saving Time ends Sunday, November 1st.  That means you will move your clocks back an hour!

*If you need more ZZZ's, join Boyace Harlan for a free seminar at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital on Thursday, October 29th at noon.  Call 494-2936 to get your seat.

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