Shift Work Sleep Disorder

What is shift work sleep disorder (SWSD)?

SWSD is a sleep disorder that affects people who frequently rotate shifts or work at night. About 20 % of the US workforce is involved in some form of shift work. Schedules of these people go against the body's natural circadian rhythm, and individuals have difficulty adjusting to the different sleep and wake schedule. SWSD consists of a constant or recurrent pattern of sleep interruption that results in difficulty sleeping or excessive sleepiness. This disorder is common in people who work non-traditional hours, usually between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.

What are the symptoms of shift work sleep disorder (SWSD)?

The most common symptoms of SWSD are difficulty sleeping and excessive sleepiness. Other symptoms associated with SWSD can include difficulty concentrating, headaches or lack of energy.

Not every shift worker suffers from SWSD. However, if you are a shift worker and experience any of these symptoms, you should talk to your doctor.

What are the consequences of shift work sleep disorder (SWSD)?

Consequences of SWSD include:

How can I deal with shift work sleep disorder (SWSD)?

Shift workers must be willing to make sleep a priority. People who work shifts other than a 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. routine might have to prepare for sleep even though it might be daylight outside. Minimize exposure to light on your way home from work if you are on the night shift to keep morning sunlight from activating your internal "daytime clock." Follow bedtime rituals and try to keep a regular sleep schedule—even on weekends. Go to sleep as soon as possible after work. It is important to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every day.

At home, ask family and friends to help create a quiet, dark and peaceful setting during your sleep time. Have family members wear headphones to listen to music or watch TV. Encourage people in the household to avoid vacuuming, dish washing, and other noisy activities during your sleep time. Put a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the front door so that delivery people and friends will not knock or ring the doorbell.

Some general guidelines for decreasing the effects of shift work sleep disorder (SWSD)?



This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic 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. For additional health information, please contact the Center for Consumer Health Information at the Cleveland Clinic (216) 444-3771 or toll-free (800) 223-2273 extension 43771. If you prefer, you may visit or This document was last reviewed on: 4/22/2017