Sunday, December 27, 2009

Shift Work Sleep Disorder - What Can You Do?

Although I'm not a doctor and I don't pretend to be one I can tell you from my experience what I did to minimize the discomfort of working the night shift. 

So, what is Shift Work Sleep Disorder. 

According to an entry in Wikipedia shift work sleep disorder is a circadian rhythm sleep disorder which affects people who change their work or sleep schedules frequently or who work longterm on other than the day shift. The effect of an out of sync circadian rhythm is like having jet lag on a daily basis.
The advice I got at work was that I should invest in blackout blinds.  They were readily available to purchase from any of the big box home improvement stores.  Getting a good night sleep was important to me but staying awake at work was harder.  After 2 o'clock in the morning I found myself fighting to stay awake.  I invested in a good stainless steel thermos and drank coffee all night to try to stay awake.

Now, years later I find myself on afternoon shift struggling to stay awake in the middle of the afternoon!  If I'm sitting down my eyes would close after a time without me even knowing it!  Stopping at a traffic light was worrying me.  What if I fell asleep while driving?  What could I do to prevent that from happening?

Have you ever heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD?

I'm not talking about the depression part of the disorder.  I'm talking about during that time of the year where we have less sunlight and how it affects our overall well-being.  It's almost like hitting a wall when we go back to Standard time.  People who live in the northern parts of the world feel it more than those who live nearer the equator. 

So, I tried something.  I heard that people who are diagnosed with SAD use light therapy to make them feel less depressed and feel more energetic.  After doing a bit of research I realized that even though I'm not depressed I could use some of the benefits the therapy offers.  If it worked! 

So I got the Phillips Golite Blue light after reading everything on the box. I wanted to go to the Phillips web site to take their online assessment before I bought but thought why not save a trip and buy it anyway.

It was a pretty big impulse buy but if it worked I would soon forget about the price.  If it didn't work I could always take it back to the store. 

Well it's 3 months later and I still have the light box.  I'm not taking it back.  Just being able to keep my eyes open during the day is worth the price.  Now I'm not missing parts of TV shows or movies anymore and I don't worry about falling asleep at the wheel like I used to.  I'm very happy with this product.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

You Should Quit - If You're Working the Night Shift

I've often wondered why the night shift is called the graveyard shift. Walking around like a zombie because I didn't get enough sleep. Or was it because the lack of a "normal" routine where I could get a regular sleep at night meant that I could nod off at any time making it dangerous for me (and others) - kind of like staying awake with one foot in the grave.
The best advice I can give you if you're working the night shift is to try to get on any other shift as soon as possible, even if it means quitting. Now that might seem drastic but your body and your health will thank you later.
Now some people may have good jobs on "midnights". Firemen and paramedics come to mind. Lots of these positions require that you work the "off" shift for long stretches. People who have just started working at union jobs may be stuck on the night shift because their seniority doesn't allow them to work on the day shift. These are pretty good paying jobs so making this sacrifice for a little while is a decision you have to make for yourself.
I used to work the night shift because I couldn't hold a day shift job with my seniority. I found out later how much better working the afternoon shift was. Being able to take care of the kids while mom is away at work is a definite advantage when raising children. Saves money on the day care expenses too!
The first thing I noticed when I started on the afternoon shift was I had a little more color in my face. Friends even told me so. But, my love affair with the afternoon shift was short lived.
I found myself not being able to go to sleep at night when I came home from work. Most people didn't go to bed straight away after work so I used that as an excuse to watch TV until 3 or 4 in the morning. And later when I got my first computer! Whoa! I don't want to go there!

So what does this have to do with you?

It's been over 20 years since I've been on the "graveyard shift" and I know a little about it that could help you cope. I also know what could happen to you if you abuse your "system" if you continue down this road without knowing what you should do to minimize the risks of health problems down the road.

Until next time!