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What is shift work disorder?

Shift work disorder is a sleep disorder that occurs when you have difficulties adjusting to a work schedule that takes place during a time which most people sleep. It is a circadian rhythm sleep disorder. The circadian rhythms are the body’s internal clock and operate roughly on a 24-hour schedule. They signal when you are supposed to feel sleepy or alert.

When you have shift work disorder, there is a conflict between your body’s circadian rhythms and your work schedule. You may have to be at work when your body wants to sleep. Then, when you have to sleep, your body expects to be awake. Your circadian rhythms operate on a roughly 24-hour schedule. Your body uses sunlight to determine how much of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin it produces. In shift work disorder, melatonin production may occur when you need to be awake and alert for your job. Exposure to sunlight may prevent you from producing melatonin when you are supposed to sleep.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.