Shift Work Sleep Disorder

June 15, 2020

As our economies begin to re-open many of us will be returning to work. For most, this means keeping traditional business hours during the work week, but for approximately 20 of the US full time workforce this means shift work.

A shift worker is anyone who works outside the typical “9 to 5” business day. Increasingly our economy has become dependent on shift workers to meet the demands of globalization and society. A wide range of industries require 24-hour shift work including emergency services, construction, customer service, manufacturing and transportation.

While shift work means increased productivity it comes with risks. Some of the most serious and frequent problems shift workers face are inadequate and disrupted sleep resulting in fatigue. Exhaustion in the workplace can lead to lack of concentration, lost time, accidents and injuries.

Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD) is a circadian rhythm sleep disorder. The circadian rhythm is a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours. It is considered a disorder because of the frequency with which shift workers struggle with sleep quality and daytime exhaustion.


The main symptoms of SWSD include:

  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Insomnia
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Reduced performance
  • Irritability/depressed mood

Unfortunately, treatment for SWSD is limited but strategies and sleep aids provide some relief. Research indicates that the body may never fully adapt provide to shift work, especially for those who swing shifts or sleep at traditional times while off-duty. However, there are ways of getting adequate sleep while doing shift work.


Here are some tips for staying awake on the job:

  • Avoid long commutes
  • Take power naps during breaks
  • Avoid working alone
  • Move frequently (walk, take the stairs)
  • Chew ice chips or gum
  • Drink cold beverages instead of hot drinks

Here are some tips for sleeping during the day:

  • Wear dark glasses on your commute home
  • Keep the same sleeping and waking hours, even off-duty
  • Wear a sleep mask and ear plugs
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages and foods
  • Avoid alcohol and other stimulants

Zenbev can be a helpful tool to ensure shift workers receive adequate sleep. In combination with a sleep mask or dark room, the tryptophan in Zenbev helps your body produce melatonin so you fall asleep naturally and stay asleep longer. There is no cure for Shift Work Sleep Disorder, but Zenbev can help you safely adapt to your non-traditional work schedule as our economy gradually reopens.