Shift working disorder

Is Shift Work Related To Sleep Disorders?

Shift work is a type of work whose objective is to continue production, using the continuous presence of teams in the same job. Is shift work related to sleep disorders?

Changing the day for the night necessarily implies going against the biological clock, which is innate and is programmed so that, as a species, humans function during the day and sleep at night. Most people with shift works have sleep disorders

Shift work requires changing habits, but it also requires compliance with certain rules that can prevent the damage from biological deregulation.

The problem almost always starts because switching from day to night is never an effective switch.

That is, the exchange is not total. The response tonight work is not always the most effective, starting with non-compliance with rules and schedules, either at meals or in the number of hours of effective sleep.

During the day, these workers “try to sleep”, but they are not always able to achieve the goal effectively.

Over time, sleep becomes disorganized, the risk of insomnia increases and there is a greater disposition for physical and emotional problems.

When we decide to work in shifts, we have to take into account that we are going to change our whole life.

Our schedules will not coincide with those of the people who live with us, who live with us.

We sleep when it’s time to eat, we work when it’s time to sleep.

Therefore, changing sleep hours can not only influence sleep patterns per se, but also influence anxiety, social life, and eating patterns, which in turn will also influence sleep.

Working in shifts implies that we are aware that everything in our life changes, and we have to adapt to a pace that our body was not used to having.

Shift work is not healthy, nor can you do it until the end of your life.

This biological change can cause:

• an increase in intestinal problems (gastric ulcer, irritable colon),

• cancer (increased risk of breast, ovarian, colorectal and prostate cancer);

• cardiovascular problems (high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, myocardial infarction),

• depression

• and risk of occupational or traffic accidents, linked to drowsiness

• changes in productivity, due to absenteeism or a propensity for errors that affect performance capacity.

On average, switching from day to night is never effective and results in only 4 to 7 hours of sleep.

In addition to sleep deprivation, we must also combine early awakening, tiredness upon awakening, and the inevitable interference of environmental factors in the quality of sleep during the day, such as noise.

They live the other way around and the night becomes the day. Shift work runs counter to the biological clock and the effects on the quality and quantity of sleep turn out to be revealed.

Shift work is related to a sleep disorder characterized essentially by insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness and which can affect up to 10% of these workers.

In both cases it is important to keep in mind that the change in biological rhythms will require an effort to adapt, demanding as a response the compliance with rules and schedules, which can help to combat the effects of this deregulation.

Before working, a nap of 30 minutes to 2 hours is recommended to avoid drowsiness during the night shift, but we also recommend that small naps (up to 30 minutes) should be allowed during the night shift.

On the other hand, during the rest period, 7 to 8 hours of sleep are essential, which should not be interrupted and, preferably, should happen in the absence of noise.

What is circadian rhythm?

Circadian rhythm refers to your body’s natural internal clock, which it regulates when you feel sleepy or awake.

When your internal clock tells you it’s time to sleep, your body releases melatonin to help you feel tired. However, environmental factors, such as the light that your eyes see, also influence your cycle.

The circadian rhythm is important because it affects not only your sleep-wake cycle but also the release of certain hormones, body temperature, digestion, and more.

What is a shift-related sleep disorder?

Shift-related sleep disturbance refers to one of many circadian rhythm disturbances that can disrupt your sleep cycle. Anyone who works at night or on rotating shifts is at risk of developing these disorders.

Working on a different shift can cause insomnia and less rested sleep. This can make you feel sleepy during the day, less alert, irritable and depressed. Problems with chronic disorders related to shift work can cause you to get sick. It can even fall asleep uncontrollably for brief periods, which is called “microsleep”. This can cause accidents at work or on the road.

Taking into account the health risks associated with shift work, measures must be taken to minimize the impact of this type of work on health.

• Involvement of workers in the construction of their working hours.
These must be planned according to the workload, the length of the shift, and the schedule.

• workers must benefit from shifts that rotate clockwise (phase advance), ensuring a minimum rest of 11 hours.

• Institutions must make sure that workers working in shift work schemes are aware of the risks associated with these hours, as well as access to differentiated clinical monitoring by occupational medicine.

At the individual level, several measures can lessen the impact of shift work on workers’ health

• maintaining sleep hygiene,

• the practice of regular physical exercise,

• changes to light exposure during and after shifts,

• Always try to sleep seven to nine hours a day.

• Avoid caffeine or alcoholic drinks close to bedtime, as they can make sleep less restful.

• Try natural supplements, such as melatonin, to help change your body’s sleep cycle.

• Use blackout curtains, white noise machines, fans, and earplugs to keep out of daylight and sounds.

• Stay away from bright screens an hour or two before going to bed.

• Maintain a regular diet;

• Eat lighter meals at night so that the body does not take longer than necessary to digest it;

• After leaving the shift, eat a healthy snack to give you energy;

• Take a nap before work to avoid feeling drowsy during the hours when you need to be more attentive.

Working on a different shift can cause insomnia and less rested sleep. This can make you feel sleepy during the day, less alert, irritable and depressed. Problems with chronic disorders related to shift work can cause you to get sick. It can even fall asleep uncontrollably for brief periods, which is called “microsleep”. This can cause accidents at work or on the road.

As working hours usually vary from week to week, what you can do is to draw up a plan to know what time you should sleep, to guarantee the necessary rest for your body and mind. A good example of a plan is:

Work Shift What time to sleep (8 hours)
When working on the Morning or Afternoon shift Sleep at night, from 11 pm to 7 am.
When leaving the night shift Sleep in the morning, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.
When to enter the Nightshift Sleep at least 3 hours in the afternoon before starting the shift
When you have time off Sleep at night if the next day you work in the morning or in the afternoon

After working the night shift, it is normal that even after sleeping the recommended 8 hours, the person wakes up still sleepy and remains a little more tired the next day, but that feeling disappears throughout the day.

While shiftwork may seem like an insurmountable barrier to getting a good night’s sleep, in reality, it is not. These sleep tricks can make all the difference.

And yes. Shift work can be related to sleep disorders if you don’t take these topics into consideration


N.D. (2020). CLEVELAND CLINIC: Shift Work Sleep Disorder [Online]. Available at:  (accessed April 28th, 2021).

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