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Coping with Irregular Work and Sleep Schedule

Human beings are naturally diurnal animals that sleep at night and stay awake during the day. This is the circadian rhythm which repeats every 24 hours. This rhythm persists in the human body even without external clues. If these rhythms are not followed for any reason, the person will begin to experience sleepiness or insomnia. One of the main reasons for disrupting the circadian rhythm is work timings. Many people who begin work late in the day or very early in the morning are at high risk of developing Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD).


Short nap at work place

Consequences can be Disastrous

Whether a person is suffering from SWSD or simple sleeplessness, they both can have a negative impact on the quality of life. A lower standard of efficiency at work is just the beginning. This may have serious consequences for a person who works in a hospital or other places where alertness is critical. Lack of concentration and attention affects the activities of daily living and it might even lead to accidents.

SWSD Symptoms

Some of the symptoms of SWSD are common to other ailments or do not seem very serious, but if a person is dealing with them all together, then it can be SWSD. Excessive sleepiness, insomnia, headache, weight gain, fatigue and trouble concentrating are SWSD symptoms. People vary greatly in the way they are able to adapt to different sleep patterns. For those who find it difficult to manage their hours and sleep, here are some remedies that will help.

Being Regular

Fixing the hours for sleep and sticking to them will help a lot. This means that there should be no disturbances during that time including phone calls, entertainment, housework, meetings, errands or social commitments. It will be better if you keep the bedroom dark, quiet and cool with blackout curtains and use a white noise machine. Family, friends and colleagues can be told about the seriousness of uninterrupted sleep time, and they will cooperate for sure. If sleep doesn’t come quickly and easily, it is better to get up and read, drink hot milk or do any calming activity. It is not good to watch television, clean cupboards or anything else that contributes to wakefulness. This type of regularity will gradually promote better sleep.

Proper Sleep Schedule

When you decide on your sleep schedule, you should maintain it for a whole week. That means you must never sleep late even on weekends or holidays. The important thing is to keep up the schedule. If it is not possible to sleep for seven or eight consecutive hours due to other commitments, then try sleeping for three or four hours during the day time but try to get full night’s sleep on the days “off”.

Organizing Work Shifts

Rotating work shifts that begin later each day in the clockwise direction are better than shifts that change from early to late and back to early. If possible, avoid overtime or extended work shifts. This is another way to include regularity into the sleep pattern. Also, taking a short nap, possibly around fifteen minutes, can greatly increase productivity. This means it helps rest the brain and allows for better focus. Naps should be scheduled for the same time everyday and it will help with excessive sleepiness. Having a small nap before starting to home will enable you to stay fresh while driving. Naps are not a good idea if it’s too close to the regularly planned sleep period as it may prolong wakefulness.

Drugs are only Temporary Help

Caffeine and sleeping pills are a last resort for someone whose sleep pattern is so disturbed. Caffeine should only be taken early in the evening and never before bedtime.

If these simple remedies do not help, it would be wise to consult a sleep specialist. They offer Cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia which is a very effective non-drug treatment. They also offer bright light therapy and medications.

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