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Shift Work Sleep Disorder

Many patients with sleep disorders are shift workers, who are especially challenged when it comes to getting adequate and restful sleep. Shift workers have less total time to sleep in a 24-hour period than people who work conventional hours. Further, years of shift working can lead to chronic sleep problems. Many problems encountered by shift workers can be lessened by behavioral changes and specific treatments, including the timing of light exposure, the use of sleeping aides and maintenance of good sleep habits. An environment conducive to restful sleep is also very important.

Creating The Right Environment for Sleep

There are numerous things that can impact a person's ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Noise level, temperature, and light are three of the biggest factors. How can someone with shift work sleep disorder create the proper environment for sleep?

  • Sounds – Try to eliminate sounds that will keep you awake or wake you up. Modern technology often works against proper sleep. If you sleep with your cell phone or other mobile devices in the room, be sure that not only the volume is turned off but also the vibrate setting so that the sound of the device rattling against a desk or nightstand won't keep you from sleeping deeply enough.
  • Temperature – Extremes in temperature lead to poor sleep. Be sure that your bed clothes, linens, and the temperature set on the thermostat work together to create the proper sleeping environment.
  • Lights – One of the biggest problems in shift work sleep disorder is that a person may often need to sleep while it is light outside. Light creeping in through the blinds may convince your body that it is time to be awake, even if you are only just getting to bed. Blackout shades may be a necessity. Also, be careful when it comes to the use of mobile devices with bright screens just before trying to fall asleep.

This isn't a conclusive list of ways to create the best sleep environment. You may need the help of a sleep specialist to create an environment and routine that works for you. Winthrop-University Hospital's Sleep Disorders Center can help you to develop the right sleep habits and provide you with any necessary sleep aides.