Raise your hand if that’s you! When the alarm clock goes off at whatever time my shift starts, I will often say to myself: “Didn’t I just do that yesterday?” With all foolishness aside, I do enjoy my job, but I also find it very annoying at times. The most annoying about running a business is the crazy hours that you work. In retail, you need to be flexible because you never know when you’re needed. If you’re the manager, flexibility is a huge part of the job.
My schedule isn’t set in stone like others. I don’t work the atypical 9-5pm. Some days, I work the early morning shift, other days it’s the middle shift and sometimes, it’s the night shift. Sometimes I start as early as 5am (I hate it as much as everyone does! I’m no early bird!) and I may also start as late as 2pm. Remind you that I put in over 8-9 hours a day and sometimes longer depending on how busy the business is and if another manager needs a shift covered. Probably, the longest shift that I’ve taken is a 12 hour shift. It’s not that bad when the business is steady, but your body (especially your feet!) hates working those hours.
Because of this unusual schedule it has really screwed up my sleeping patterns and my eating habits. When I usually do morning shifts, I will start at 5am and end at 1pm. So imagine going to bed around 9pm and waking up at 4am to get ready and to open a store. This is not always fun. I don’t like getting up that early and retiring that early in the evening. Evening shifts aren’t my favorite either when I start at 2pm and I have to stay until 11pm. I love my middle shifts because they’re right in the 9-5pm range or you can work 7-3 or thereabouts. With this shift I’m able to establish a healthy routine of both sleeping habits and eating habits. When my schedule is consistent, I can sleep at the same time every night and wake up the same time everyday. I can eat my three meals a day on time as well. But, it doesn’t always work like that and you have to do what you have to do.
One of the things that my doctor and I talked about was “Shift Work Disorder.” My doctor knows that I work at Starbucks and I work ungodly hours everyday. He knows that my shifts are different everyday, too. So when we ordered the sleep study, one of the things that he feels that I may have is this as well as insomnia and sleep apnea. I do snore, and I do have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. And I don’t really go to bed at the same time everyday and I’m very sleepy throughout the day.
So I did a little digging and found a lot of information to be very useful for me. In part, it does make sense that working unusual shifts can cause serious problems like “Shift Work Disorder.” Honestly, when my doctor told me about this, I thought he was just pulling my leg. However, I’m not the only patient of his that experiences symptoms like this and had to have them get a sleep study in order for them to be diagnosed.
Pretty much what “Shift Work Disorder” is where you work outside the 9-5pm norm and work rotating and non-routine shifts. Anyone who works (typically) in the service industry such as retail & foodservice, anyone in the healthcare field such as doctors, or anyone working as an officer or paramedic or firefighter knows what this feels like. If I forgot to mention other fields, my sincerest apologies. Better yet, who doesn’t work long and strange rotating shifts??? We do what we got to do!
Basically, our internal clocks becomes out of balance because our schedules aren’t consistent at all. I know mine is all screwed up. I don’t eat my meals on a regular schedule because everyday is different. When I go to sleep, it could be right after I get off of my shifts. I could go to bed at 2pm when I do mornings. I can go to bed at midnight after working until 11pm (sometimes 11:30pm). Yikes! So you can imagine that I tend to get very sleepy during the daytime. Imagine your store filled with customers and you can’t stop yawning for the life of you. You’re in the middle of an 8 hour shift and you’re yawning at 2 in the afternoon. I’ve had customers tell me to refuel and get some espresso in my body. So true, but remember caffeine stays in your body for hours and affects your sleeping patterns if you consume too much!
Looking at the symptoms of “Shift Work Disorder” fit me to a tee:
- Excessive drowsiness and sleepiness during the daytime. Me! Those yawns are so unrelenting
- Feeling irritable and not refreshed at all
- Depression (oh damn!)
- No energy (low dopamine levels in the body affect your motivation and your energy)
The seriousness of the disorder affects your sleep, you’re overall health (cue my overweight self!), your productivity and your safety (don’t fall asleep at work or on the road!). Your risk of serious illnesses such as diabetes, heart & stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, and high blood pressure are through the roof. But in order for you to be diagnosed with this disorder, a sleep study has to been done so at least you know what you’re going up against.
Remember that any condition is treatable. With this you can use melatonin to help you sleep (I’ve tried this and didn’t work for me), establish a sleep routine as well as eating right, start a sleep log or diary, light therapy (the same trick used for seasonal affective disorder) and medications that are prescribed by professionals. I would be very cautious when using sleep aids because they are very addicting, too. Trust me, I’ve been done that road before especially during college. My mother used to take caffeine pills to stay awake in college so she could study for her exams.
Again there’s a lot of information about this available and it doesn’t hurt to get it checked out! I would be surprised if my sleep study determined that I have this as well as sleep apnea. We will see once that study occurs.