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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

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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 March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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