Medical Treatments for Shift Work Disorder

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Non-medical options, like following good sleep hygiene, making adjustments to your schedule and sleep environment, and practicing relaxation techniques are usually the first step in treating shift work sleep disorder. If you’ve tried these and you still have symptoms that interfere with work or family life, your doctor may suggest medication. This might be medication to help you stay alert at work, or to help you sleep during your off-hours.   

Helping you feel alert: There are medications, such as modafinil (brand name Provigil) and armodafinil (brand name Nuvigil) that increase wakefulness and can help make people alert and productive on the job. If you’ve made changes to your sleep behaviors and schedule, but still feel very sleepy or have many bouts of falling asleep when you’re supposed to be awake, your doctor may suggest a medication as an option. 

These medications work by turning on the systems that normally keep your brain awake during the day. These medications are not amphetamines and are not habit forming. 

Helping you sleep: Sleep aids to help you fall asleep and stay asleep might be suggested to temporarily help a shift worker who needs to sleep during irregular hours. Examples of sleep aids include benzodiazepines, non-benzodiazepine hypnotics, and certain antidepressants. 

You should ask your doctor which of these may be the best match for your symptoms and your health history.