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What is shift work disorder and how to avoid it


Shift work is a necessary part of modern society, as many industries require around-the-clock operations. However, it can also come with a cost: Shift Work Disorder (SWD). In this blog post will delve into the topic of SWD, outlining its definition, symptoms, and risk factors, as well as offering strategies on how to avoid it.

What is Shift Work Disorder?

Shift Work Disorder is a circadian rhythm sleep disorder that results from a misalignment between an individual's internal body clock and their work schedule. It can affect those who work night shifts, early morning shifts, or rotating shifts. This misalignment can lead to difficulties in falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up when needed, resulting in sleep deprivation, insomnia, and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Symptoms of Shift Work Disorder

If you are a shift worker, it is essential to recognise the symptoms of SWD. These can include:

1/ Insomnia or difficulty falling asleep
2/ Excessive daytime sleepiness
3/ Difficulty staying awake during work hours
4/ Lack of energy or fatigue
5/ Irritability or mood disturbances
6/ Decreased concentration and cognitive function
7/ Gastrointestinal disturbances

Risk Factors for Shift Work Disorder

Certain factors can increase your risk of developing SWD, such as:

1/ Working night or early morning shifts
2/ Frequently rotating shifts
3/ A history of sleep disorders or mental health issues
4/ Age (older adults are more susceptible)
5/ Lifestyle factors, such as poor sleep hygiene, excessive caffeine consumption, and lack of physical activity

How to Avoid Shift Work Disorder

Preventing SWD is crucial for both personal well-being and workplace productivity. Here are some strategies to minimise the risk of developing the disorder:

Prioritise sleep: Ensure that you get enough sleep during your off hours. Create a sleep-friendly environment by maintaining a cool, quiet, and dark room. Invest in blackout curtains, earplugs, and a comfortable mattress.

Maintain a consistent sleep schedule: As much as possible, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on your days off. This can help regulate your internal body clock.

Wear a sleep mask: Wearing a sleep mask like Baxter Blue's sleep mask that blocks out 100% of light enables your body to simulate a natural night-time atmosphere, regardless of their actual sleep hours.

Adopt healthy sleep habits: Develop a relaxing bedtime routine, limit screen time before bed, and avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol close to bedtime.

Nap strategically: Short naps (20-30 minutes) can be helpful in managing fatigue, but avoid napping too close to bedtime, as this can disrupt your sleep schedule.

Exercise regularly: Engage in regular physical activity to improve sleep quality and reduce stress. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, and avoid working out too close to bedtime.

Seek exposure to natural light: Daylight helps regulate your circadian rhythm. Spend time outside or near a window during daylight hours.

Shift Work Disorder can negatively impact your health, well-being, and job performance. Understanding the disorder, recognizing its symptoms, and adopting strategies to avoid it are essential steps in maintaining a healthy balance between work and life. By prioritising sleep, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, and implementing healthy habits, you can minimise the risk of developing SWD and maximise your overall quality of life.


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