Shift Work Sleep Disorder – Overview

Take care of yourself, and get support

  • Eat a healthy diet. Some people who work night shifts gain weight because they eat high-calorie or high-fat meals.
  • Don’t have alcohol or caffeine in the hours leading up to bedtime.
  • Get plenty of exercise.
  • Take a nap during a work break if you can.
  • Ask family members not to wake you during your sleep time, except for an emergency.

Consider a supplement or medicine for short-term use

Ask your doctor if you should try a dietary supplement or medicine. Doctors usually advise people to use a supplement or medicine only for a short time.

  • The dietary supplement melatonin may help improve your sleep. A man-made form of melatonin is available without a prescription. Your doctor can tell you how much to take and when to take it.
  • Your doctor may prescribe sleeping pills for a limited time to help you fall asleep. These types of medicines include eszopiclone (Lunesta), ramelteon (Rozerem), zaleplon (Sonata), and zolpidem (Ambien or Ambien CR).
  • The prescribed medicine modafinil may help you stay more alert at work. It’s been shown to help people with shift work sleep problems stay awake when they work.2

Your doctor also may have you try treatment with light (phototherapy) before a work shift to help you stay alert.

You may find that the caffeine in coffee or soda drinks helps you stay alert. But use caffeine only early in your shift, or it could keep you awake when you get home in the morning.

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