Shift Work Disorders

Shift Work Disorders

Sleep Disorder in shift workers is a problem that may affect almost 1/3 of working people. In industrialized countries, approx. 30% of professionally active people work in shifts - most often this applies to workers in various industries, healthcare, transport, public safety, etc.

Many studies have proven that many health consequences, such as diseases of the digestive system, cardiovascular and nervous systems, are predominant sleep disturbances. How can you deal with situations like insomnia? Is it difficult to fall asleep after the so-called nightmares are always a symptom of it?

What is it, and when is it diagnosed?

Proper sleep, which regenerates the body, lasts no less than 7 hours and no more than 9 hours and occurs at night. If its length or quality is inadequate, insomnia may develop.

Although it is often treated only as a symptom, it is also a separate disease that requires treatment. People who work in a shift system and their times of falling asleep and waking up are irregular, often with primary, spontaneous or psychophysiological insomnia.

It is a disease entity classified as a sleep disorder. Unlike secondary insomnia, insomnia is not associated with other diseases, mental disorders, or taking medications but with bad habits that violate the principles of proper sleep hygiene.

Research shows that shift workers are three times more likely to suffer from insomnia than people working day and night.

People who have insomnia have sleep problems such as:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Shallowness of sleep
  • And the accompanying frequent awakenings that prevent rest
  • Premature awakening
  • And lack of sleep and fatigue after waking up

You should also emphasize that the diagnosis of insomnia and its treatment is necessary when the shift worker experiences insomnia for at least a month, three times a week or more.


Shift work desynchronizes the body's internal biological rhythm. It means that reversing the order of activity and rest causes the so-called temporary debt syndrome.

When an employee sleeps during the day when it is light and works at night when it is dark, symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue,
  • Irritability
  • Lack of concentration
  • Reduction of muscle strength
  • Intestinal peristalsis disorders
  • Deterioration of eye-hand coordination, etc.

An even more difficult situation arises when employees work the night shift and the day, evening, and night shifts. The body never has enough time to adjust to the shift, and thus the dysregulated organism very often reacts with insomnia.

In addition, research shows that people working shifts struggle with insomnia because they sleep less than other employees - their sleep is shorter by up to 7 hours per week.

In addition, sleep disturbances also appear because sleep after the so-called night takes place in inappropriate conditions, e.g., it is bright and voices are heard, which stimulates the brain to work.

Additionally, your body produces less melatonin during the day, the sleep hormone that allows you to sleep deeply.

Health consequences of shift work

Shift work has a significant impact on health. Many employees experience digestive system disorders. There are symptoms such as:

  • Heartburn
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea, etc.

In addition, peptic ulcer disease occurs in them even 2-8 times more often than in daytime workers and often develops after 5 years of work in this system.

Additionally, they are more likely to have:

Cardiovascular disease (e.g., high blood pressure or coronary artery disease); and

mental disorders, including neurosis, anxiety, depression, etc.

The negative consequences of shift work are also:

  • Obesity
  • Greater sickness absence at work
  • Lower efficiency at work
  • And also less concentration

How to avoid sleepiness at work?

Shift workers should remember to get a good night's sleep before work, which will undoubtedly reduce the feeling of drowsiness during the shift. On the day preceding the night shift, it is not recommended to take short naps - it is worth taking care of the right amount of proper sleep.

If the shift starts very early, remember to go to bed much earlier - so you won't get into bedtime sleep-standby mode.

To avoid drowsiness while working, it is also necessary to work in bright light, which will increase body temperature, alertness and efficiency at work and, consequently, allow for a deep sleep after work.

In addition, you should make sure that during work you eat easy-to-digest meals and in small portions, and drink at least 2 liters of water.

How to get enough sleep after a night shift?

For restorative sleep after the night, it is worth getting ready to rest after leaving work. It is recommended to wear sunglasses when leaving the building. When returning home by car, it is recommended to open the windows to minimize stimulation and concentration.

When you come home, it is good to refresh yourself and then prepare the bedroom for sleep. It will be beneficial to ventilate the room, lower its temperature to approx. 19 ° C and cover the windows.

It is also recommended to turn off any alarms that might disturb your sleep. Then go to bed and, so that nothing will disrupt your sleep, put earplugs in and put on a blindfold.

After waking up, it is worth remembering about a healthy and balanced diet, as well as regular physical activity.

Resting after work does not have to mean sitting in front of the TV - a better solution would be a walk, training, playing with children, working in the garden, etc.

Who shouldn't work night shifts?

With age, tolerance to shift work worsens, so it is not recommended for people over 50.

It is also discouraged from people who have the morning chronotype, i.e., the larks.

People suffering from:

  • mental disorders
  • epilepsy
  • diabetes
  • sleep disturbance
  • digestive system diseases
  • cardiovascular diseases
  • alcoholism
  • drug addicts

This type of work should also not be performed by permanent daytime workers and by women who have numerous family responsibilities.


A regular circadian rhythm is extremely important to your well-being. Shift workers who work at night for a long time and thus struggle with sleep disorders may suffer from several ailments: body weakness, frequent headaches, visual impairment, skin deterioration, etc. How to counteract them? Appropriate health prophylaxis, sleep hygiene, physical activity, and a balanced diet will undoubtedly positively affect the condition of the body.

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