sleep foundation

Shift Work Disorder

The National Sleep Foundation

Medically Reviewed by

The National Sleep Foundation

Written by

The National Sleep Foundation

Shift work is work that takes place on a schedule outside the traditional 9 am – 5 pm day. It can involve evening or night shifts, early morning shifts, and rotating shifts. Many industries rely heavily on shift work, and millions of people work in jobs that require shift schedules.

What Professions Participate in Shift Work

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Roughly 15% of full-time wage and salary workers in the U.S. work on shifts outside the traditional daytime schedule.
  • Most shift workers are in service occupations, like protective service (such as police and firefighters), food preparation and serving, healthcare, and transportation.

Why Do People Work Shift Schedules?

When asked, people state many reasons for working on shift schedules. For example:

  • Shift work is the “nature of the job.”
  • Shift work allows for better arrangements for family or childcare.
  • Shift work is the only option available.
  • Shift work is a personal preference.

Shift work is vital in many industries, and we rely on shift workers to provide important services off-hours.

What Problems Come From Shift Work?

Not all shift workers suffer from sleep issues. But, approximately 10% of night and rotating shift workers are thought to have a sleep disorder known as shift work disorder.

Between roughly 25-30% of shift workers experience symptoms of the disorder such as excessive sleepiness or insomnia.

Shift work is also linked to additional problems with physical and mental health, performance, and safety.

It’s important that shift workers learn specific techniques for improving sleep and managing schedules, to allow for the best sleep and health possible.