As you may have guessed, people who suffer from Shift Work Sleep Disorder (also known as SWSD) are individuals who work shift work. In the United States alone, it's estimated that this sleeping disorder affects about one quarter of the 20 million or so people who work shift work. People who are employed in jobs that require shift work are numerous. They range from people who work in the emergency services fields like police, firefighters and EMTs to people in industries such as mining, manufacturing and transportation. Any industry that operates around the clock will have people who are doing shift work - and one quarter of them will experience shift work sleep disorder.
Your circadian rhythm is your body's natural cycle - telling you to get up when it's light outside and to go to bed when it gets dark. People who work shift jobs force their bodies to operate outside of their natural circadian rhythm. No matter how long they work night shifts or bounce back and forth between nights and days, their circadian rhythm never becomes completed adjusted to the hours.
That's because sunlight is one of the signals the body uses to let it know that it's time to wake up and be awake. A person suffering from shift work sleep disorder subjects their bodies to continuous circadian disruption.
If you happen to suffer from shift work sleep disorder the first thing you should realize is the importance of sleep in your life.
There are five stages in a normal sleep cycle; each lasting about ninety minutes. In stages 1 and 2 you fall into a light sleep, and are easily awakened. In stages 3 and 4 you fall into a deeper and more restful sleep, with slower, more even breathing. Stages 3 and 4 can be likened to refilling your gas tank, or refueling your body by replacing spent calories. Stage 5 is when your brain gets active and dreams occur.
Many people who suffer from shift work sleep disorder (SWSD) turn to sleeping pills to help them get to sleep. You should avoid this temptation at all costs. Sleeping pills have side effects and can develop into an addiction as well as bringing on a host of other health issues in the future.
If you've tried everything and you still operate like a zombie day in and day out, it may be time to look for another job or to approach your boss and ask about a more 'normal' schedule.