Experts estimate that up to 25 percent of night or rotating shift workers have shift work disorder, which has potential consequences including decreased productivity and trouble focusing, and increased susceptibility to intestinal and heart diseases. However, the majority of shift workers surveyed (61 percent) said that they would sooner check in with a doctor about a cold or flu than if they were tired for three months or longer.
"It is easy to ignore the overall health impact of our work schedules, but it's so important that people experiencing excessive sleepiness or insomnia or both take the time to see a doctor and mention that they work nontraditional shifts," iterates Dr. Bonhomme. "Very often shift work disorder goes undiagnosed because either the physician or the patient is not making the connections between the symptoms, work schedule and condition."
The survey also found that:
- Most shift workers feel behind in their daily responsibilities (55%) and in planning for the future (67 percent).
- A majority of shift workers (60 percent) report being left off the invitation list for social events such as birthday parties and weddings.
- It's not just men who are impacted by shift work. More women (47 percent) than men (36 percent) who work non-traditional shifts are dissatisfied with their schedules and report negative emotions and psychological effects such as frustration (59 percent vs. 44 percent), irritability (50 percent vs. 35 percent) and anxiety (41 percent vs. 31 percent).
"Having worked rotating shifts for a long time, this survey validates what my coworkers and I experience as shift workers – both physically and emotionally – but don't necessarily talk about," said Roger Greer, a water utility plant worker who works night shifts, and spokesperson for Cephalon. "It wasn?t until I had trouble concentrating and staying awake at work that I decided to talk to my physician. I would urge people who work non-traditional hours to clearly communicate with your family, your friends and your doctor."