Diagnosis: Shift Work Disorder

Diagnosis: Shift Work Disorder

 Shift Work Disorder (SWD)

sleep work disorderShift Work Disorder occurs when the body’s internal sleep-wake clock is out of sync with the work schedule.

Because of this disruption of the body’s natural rhythm, people with Shift Work Disorder often struggle to stay awake during their waking hours or have trouble sleeping during their sleeping hours.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 15 million Americans work outside of the traditional 9 to 5 schedule. 1 in 4 of these workers may have Shift Work Disorder (SWD)

Risk Factors for SWD may include:

  • Work schedules that include night, early morning, or rotating shifts.
  • Work hours that overlap with the typical sleep period
  • Frequent Mandatory Overtime. Shift work is often combined with extended hours of duty, so fatigue can be a compounding factor.

sleep work disorder


  •  Insomnia
  • Trouble focusing
  • Sleepiness-related accidents
  • Reduced work performance
  • Struggle to stay awake at work
  • Impaired functioning
  • Increased irritability
  • Worsening of heart and stomach disorders

Signs and tests

There are currently no definitive tests available for diagnosis of Shift Work Disorder.  If you think you may be suffering from SWD, please consult with your physician.


There really is no cure for Shift Work Disorder other than changing your work hours to a ‘normal’ daytime work schedule. This may not be a possibility; especially in the nursing field.  Nursing is 24/7 and as long as there are sick people, there will be night shift workers in nursing.  Next week, I am going to discuss some treatments that can help alleviate some of the symptoms of SWD.

Support Groups

Below you will find a couple of Support Groups for those suffering from SWD.  The Gypsy Nurse does not personally endorse these groups, they are only provided as a reference.

I would encourage you to post comments.  Tell me what you want to hear about, what you enjoyed, or how you combat some of the issues discussed.  You may also connect with me via Twitter or Facebook and together we can work on decreasing the symptoms together.

This information is provided by The Gypsy Nurse and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

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As a travel nursing educator, Candy aka Gypsy Nurse, RN has worked in healthcare for nearly 20 years, working up the ranks from CNA to LPN to RN. For the past eleven years, she’s worked as a travel nurse, allowing her to practice and live in 15 states throughout the U.S. Candy still works occasionally as a travel nurse but spends most of her time providing a supportive information and resources through TheGypsyNurse.com and it's affiliated social networks.

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2 Responses to Diagnosis: Shift Work Disorder

  1. Kyle Schmidt says:

    I always sympathized with my nursing clients about this! I felt so bad for them. Nursing is a tough job for many reasons and this is definitely one of them.

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