By Celeste McLaughlin, Ergonomics Manager
Solutions Northwest, Inc. – Arcata, California
According to the National Sleep Foundation, “45% of Americans say that poor or insufficient sleep affects their daily activities at least once a week.” This statistic becomes even more worrisome for those that work the night shift or have a rotating shift schedule, as they may be more likely to experience trouble sleeping.
What are the risks of working an irregular work schedule?
According to the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, “there is a 27.9% increase in work-related injuries during night shifts when compared to morning shifts.” This is likely due to the body experiencing disrupted sleep patterns. An example of a disrupted sleep pattern would be an employee that normally works night shifts, but returns to a daytime schedule on her days off. A disrupted sleep schedule makes it difficult for the body to adjust and could lead to Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD).
What is Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD)?
Shift Work Sleep Disorder occurs when you have trouble sleeping due to working an irregular work schedule. SWSD is a circadian rhythm sleep disorder defined as: insomnia and excessive sleepiness affecting people whose work hours overlap with the typical sleep period. There are numerous shift work schedules, and they may be permanent, intermittent, or rotating; consequently, the manifestations of SWSD are quite variable.
How can you be proactive about your sleep?
While not everyone with an unconventional work schedule will suffer from SWSD, it is important to remain proactive about your sleeping habits. Here are a few tips from the Human Factor and Ergonomics perspective:
- Stick to a regular sleep-wake schedule, consistency is important.
- Choose a job location that is close to home, a short commute will give you more time to sleep.
- Work with all of the lights on to stay alert.
- Purchase items such as blackout blinds to block sunlight or circadian lighting gadgets that slowly brighten until you wake up.
- Limit caffeine during the end of your shift.
- Silence your cell phone during your sleep hours.
- Avoid bright light after work, wear sunglasses and avoid running errands.
Hopefully some of these tips will help you survive a night shift or rotating shift schedule. Remember to always listen to your body and be sure to consult with your doctor for more information. For more guidance on all things ergonomics, visit SolutionsNW.com or Contact our Ergonomics Consultants for more information.