Shift Work Sleep Disorder

Shift work -- which often involves working nights when most people are sleeping -- can wreak havoc on your sleep schedule. Those who work evening, night or rotating shifts tend to be even more sleep-deprived than the general public. There is a significant population of shift workers in the Southeast and South central Michigan area , and the experts at Henry Ford Sleep Disorders Center can help them improve the quality of their sleep -- and their lives.

Side effects of shift work sleep disorder

Shift workers often have difficulty sleeping and don’t get enough hours of sleep on a daily basis. That chronic sleep deprivation can lead to other problems, such as:

  • Difficulty concentrating or paying attention to detail
  • Increased risk of accidents
  • Headaches
  • Lack of energy
  • Slower reaction time
  • Changes in mood
  • Impaired memory

How the sleep specialists at Henry Ford can help

We understand the difficulties shift workers face when it comes to getting restful sleep. Our team of sleep experts includes Dr. Christopher Drake who is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to study sleep disorders in shift workers. Thanks to our ongoing research in this area, our doctors can help shift workers improve their sleep using several techniques, including:

  • Better sleep habits: Those trying to sleep during the day need to be even more vigilant about good sleep habits. Make sure your room can be made dark, cool and quiet during the hours you need to sleep. Avoid using electronic devices before bed and take some time to relax your body and mind before crawling into bed.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): At Henry Ford Sleep Disorders Center, we have doctors who specialize in treating insomnia in shift workers using CBT. The process involves a series of counseling sessions during which patients learn a variety of techniques for improving their sleep.
  • Light therapy: One of the reasons shift workers struggle with sleep is because their schedule is at odds with their body’s natural sleep/wake cycle. But properly timed exposure to light can help adjust your body’s sleep cycle.
  • Melatonin: The body naturally releases this hormone at night. Rising levels signal your body to get sleepy. Taking melatonin as a supplement may help reset your internal sleep rhythms, but it should be done only under a doctor’s supervision.
  • Sleep medications: We can prescribe sleep medications that are specifically for treating shift work sleep disorder. These can be helpful in the short term to get you the rest you need.

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