Sleep: four warning signs of ‘shift work disorder’ – and tips for overcoming it


Common occupations that can cause circadian disturbances – due to irregular work hours – include: firefighters, police, doctors, nurses, and retail staff. What are the warning signs of shiftworker disorder? According to the Sleep Foundation, “excessive fatigue” at work is one of the symptoms of the disease. Other signs include cognitive impairment and physical complications, as well as symptoms of insomnia.


“Insomnia means you regularly have trouble sleeping,” the NHS said.

You may experience insomnia if you:

  • I have trouble falling asleep
  • Wake up several times during the night
  • Stay awake at night
  • Waking up early and not being able to go back to sleep
  • I always feel tired after waking up
  • Difficult to take a nap during the day even if you are tired
  • Feeling tired and irritable during the day
  • You have trouble concentrating during the day because you are tired.

On average, adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per day to be the best they can be.

Shift work is believed to be a contributing factor to insomnia, but there are remedies available.

READ MORE: How to sleep: expert shares how much sleep you really need for better cognitive performance

For those with rotating work schedules – those who change from week to week, for example – would benefit from adjusting their sleep hours.

“Let’s say you are currently working a day shift and plan to move to a night shift the following week,” the experts at the Sleep Foundation began.

“You should gradually delay bedtime an hour or two every night a few days before starting the night shift if possible.

“It will help you get enough rest and avoid sudden changes.”


What shift pattern do you work?

The Dupont

This involves working on a four week cycle, made up of four different shifts covering 12 hour shifts.

Each team will work in blocks of day and night shifts, lasting three to four days.

This is then followed by one to three consecutive days off – and each team is given a block of seven days off every four weeks.


Panama involves two teams trading day shifts throughout the week in a two to three day block.

Every two weeks, each team will have seven non-consecutive days off.

The south swing

Working eight hours per shift, for seven consecutive days, employees then benefit from two to three days of rest.

When they return to work, the team will adopt different schedules from the previous seven-day block.

These shift workers have changing work days, night shifts and seven-day blocks.

During labor, energy levels can be maintained by drinking caffeine in moderation, a brief workout during your break (if you have the opportunity), or a nap.

When it comes to falling asleep, sleep hygiene is always important, which includes having a bedroom that is conducive to sleep at any time of the day.

This will involve having a dark, cool and quiet room; darkness can be achieved through blackout blinds or by wearing an eye mask.

Additionally, a white noise machine can help block out a noisy background.

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