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An estimated 15% of the U.S. workforce works outside the traditional 9 am – 5 pm workday—this can mean early morning shifts, night shifts, or rotating shifts.
There is variability in how shift work affects people. For example, studies have shown that some, but not all, rotating shift workers experience sleep disturbances.
Approximately 10% of night and rotating shift workers are thought to have shift work disorder. Between roughly 25-30% of shift workers experience symptoms of excessive sleepiness or insomnia.
Even if you get enough hours of sleep, you may still experience some symptoms of shift work disorder. This is because your internal clock continues to send you drowsy-making signals during the night (as it is naturally programmed to do), even if you’ve technically slept enough during the day.
Many shift workers have jobs that naturally require them to be on high alert and make quick, important decisions (such as people in the transportation, medical, and public safety fields). This is what makes shift work sleep disorder especially dangerous.
Night work or rotating shifts may contribute to health conditions like heart disease and cancer.