Shift Work Disorder

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

If you believe that you are suffering from shift work disorder, it’s important that you schedule a visit with your primary care physician or a sleep specialist. He or she will review your health history and ask you questions about your sleep patterns and symptoms. Your doctor may use certain tools to gather information about your symptoms, lifestyle, health history, and sleep. Here are some tools that may be used to get a better picture of your sleep problem:

  1. Sleep diary. Taking notes daily about your sleep patterns provides useful information for your doctor in determining if your sleep issues are caused by a disorder or another underlying problem. Before your visit, download and record your sleep for at least two weeks in the National Sleep Foundation Sleep Diary.
  2. Sleepiness scales. You may be asked questions to determine your level of sleepiness during periods when you wish to be awake (one of the main symptoms of shift work disorder). Your physician may use the National Sleep Foundation Sleepiness Test or another similar scale to determine if you may be suffering from an excessive level of sleepiness.
  3. Sleep studies. If your doctor believes that there is an underlying sleep condition that is causing your symptoms, he or she may ask you to undergo a sleep study (polysomnogram), a noninvasive test that records several body functions while you sleep, such as brain waves, heart rate, breathing patterns, and oxygen level. Sleep studies are commonly conducted overnight in a sleep lab but some can be done at home with portable equipment.