Sleep Deprivation Issue

Working a second or third shift can wreak havoc upon an employee’s natural ability to obtain the necessary number of sleep hours required to function at work. With over 25 million Americans working second and third shifts at work, sleep disorders among shift workers has become a growing phenomenon among sleep study groups. Sometimes referred to as “shift lag”, these American workers may be suffering from loss of sleep when not at work and subsequently risk falling asleep while at work leading to risk of work injuries and accidents. Understanding the dynamics of sleep and the impact on shift workers, along with measures to improve shift worker sleep deprivation, will work to keep these second and third shift employees from suffering from ailing health and possible work related injuries.
For shift workers, working a second and third shift, the first step in resolving “shift lag”, and improving sleep deprivation, lies in the ability to rule out other underlying health factors. Common sleep deprivation health factors may include sleep apnea, narcolepsy and even depression. Therefore, before visiting a local sleep study center, consult with a healthcare professiona for evaluation to rule out other underlying health factors which may further complicate sleep for the second and third shift worker.

With no other underlying health issues, the key to improve sleep for the shift worker lies in the promotion and encouragement to engage in deep and REM sleep quickly rather than lying, stagnant, in light sleep periods. For many shift workers, finding a dark and quiet place to sleep when the sun is shining, proved challenging when the body was normally programmed to obtain six to eight hours of sleep at night.

In sleep studies, it has been determined the average, healthy adult, can adjust to daily challenges and work with as little as five to six hours of sleep at night but should never obtain less than four hours of sleep in any 24 hour period. The challenge, therefore, for shift workers, is to find the four to six hours in which to engage in deep and REM sleep expediently. To do this, many shift workers simply begin by reducing daily sleep times by 30 minutes over a two week period. For a shift worker who ordinarily slept eight hours, the sleep time can be reduced to just six hours after a two month period. In doing so, these six hours of sleep can be achieved more effectively at strategic parts of the day.

In addition to reducing the number of hours of sleep, methodically, the shift worker, in an effort to reduce the risk of developing “shift lag” when on a second or third shift, must avoid as much exposure to sunlight in an effort to improve the quality and directness of sleep during the day. Using an eye mask and ear plugs are two key tools to improving sleep during daylight hours. Conversely, when working in the evening, to regulate melatonin, shift workers must be exposed to adequate amounts of light so as to encourage wake cycles and avert sleeping on the job.

As with any sleep disorder or sleep deprivation, diet, exercise and even sexual activity, plays a key role in improving the quality of sleep. While this is a common understanding among American workers, it is not commonly practiced especially among those who work second and third shift schedules. In today’s American workforce, physical labor is not as strenuous as it once was. As a result, many American shift workers still require regular exercise, even on a daily basis and must closely monitor diet in an effort to avert the development of “shift lag”; avoiding foods high in caffeine, foods that are spicy and avoiding the 24 hour fast food drive thru service. Instead, second and third shift employees should consider a diet rich in healthy fruits, vegetables and protein. Pasta is also an option but care should be taken to avoid heavy sauces and utilize only marinara or tomato based sauce.

With the simple health modifications of diet, exercise and sex, coupled with the use of eye masks, ear plugs and adjustment sleep times every two weeks, American shift workers will experience a new and rejuvenating sleep period each day and avoid the development of a common sleep disorder known as “shift lag”. To encourage proper performance at work, driving to and from work and even during leisurely periods, avoiding “shift lag” with these useful tips will restore and maintain a healthy lifestyle.