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6 Signs You’re Suffering From Shift Work Disorder (SWD)

6 Signs You’re Suffering From Shift Work Disorder (SWD)

If you are in healthcare, IT, security, manufacturing or in the hospitality or entertainment field, you may have to work shifts. You are just one of the 15 million Americans who do so. Early morning, late night, rotating shifts and overnight shifts are usually the ones that cause most problems.

The main issue is that if you have not adjusted to these crazy working hours, your health and relationships may suffer. Statistics show that 25% of shift workers are suffering from shift work disorder (SWD). Difficulties arise when your circadian rhythms which govern your sleep- wake cycle are out of sync. Here are 7 signs to look out for.

1. You feel excessively sleepy on the job.

Because your body clock has not adjusted to the new timetable, you feel terribly sleepy on the job and you may nod off. This is risky for safety and security reasons and will also affect productivity.

If you are lucky enough to work for a progressive company like Google, you may have the facility just to take a snooze in one of their nap rooms.

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If you are operating machinery or looking after an intensive care patient, this is obviously not an option! The best solution is to talk to your doctor. Some shift workers have found it beneficial to take modafinil or provigil as they seem to help to keep the brain alert.

2. Your sleep may be disturbed.

The other side of the coin is that when you finally get to sleep, you may wake up at odd hours, your sleep is restless and you wake up not feeling refreshed.

Your doctor can help you by asking you to keep a sleep journal so that there is a record of when, how long and how you feel when you wake up. There is also the actigraphy test which consists of wearing a device on your wrist which will monitor your sleep- wake cycle. The doctor can then prescribe some sleeping aids based on these results.

Another practical solution is to make sure you sleep in a completely dark and quiet environment. It also helps to wear dark wraparound glasses on your return home during the daylight after a night shift. This may help you to get some more restful sleep.

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3. You may be frequently ill.

If you are getting a lot of colds, flu and other illnesses, it could be a sign of SWD. Medical research shows that the melatonin, which is a hormone to help us get to sleep when darkness falls, is a great health booster. It protects the immune system and can also help you to keep a normal weight.

Another reason is that our normal daily rhythms affect blood pressure, endocrine systems, appetite and digestion. Shift work plays havoc with these rhythms and puts basic functions at risk.

The Health Survey for England research shows that shift workers are more often ill and have weight issues. Around half of them have diabetes, chronic back pain and other lung conditions which is considerably higher than the rest of the population.

The best way to resolve this issue is to get plenty of exercise and eat a healthy diet, rather than fast food. It is also wise to cut back on coffee and alcohol.

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4. You may have problems with social and family life.

As if it was not enough to have your sleep-wake cycle out of sync, you have a similar problem with your family and personal relationships. It seems almost impossible to fit in family events and social outings. You or your partner and children may feel loneliness and a certain sense of isolation. There are very few facilities for childcare for shiftworker families.

A way around this problem is to plan well ahead so that important events are not missed. Get the support of family and friends to help you make the most of the little time you have with them. As they are not on shift work themselves, it may be easier for them to be more flexible.

5. You may be often exhausted.

In spite of some recommendations laid down by employee unions, some companies insist on a quick return when there is a change of shifts. This often means that there is not enough rest time.

Now, most organizations have rules in place so that there is at least a rest period of 24 hours before the next set of rotation shifts. Doctors recommend taking a nap of 15-20 minutes whenever you can during your rest period and also just before starting work.

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This, they feel, will help to reduce your chances of suffering from SWD.

6. You may be emotionally drained.

If you are a fire fighter, police officer or a nurse in a psychiatric care unit, you are bound to be stressed out at times. It is no surprise that this will leave you emotionally drained. You simply cannot help around the house and this may lead to irritability, depression and anxiety.

The fact that some care units are considering 12 hour shifts is alarming if there is insufficient rest time, for example, 2 days on, 2 days off. One solution is to make sure you have things to look forward to and plan accordingly. Companies could also do their part by minimizing stress for their employees.

A happier family will certainly produce a more productive worker.

Let us know in the comments how you cope with shift work and still remain human!

Featured photo credit: Day sleeper…night shift worker/osseous via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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