Sidebar Top
Back to Articles

Shift-Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD)  


Excessive sleepiness is when you feel unusually sleepy, such as having a really strong urge to doze off or nap at times when you want to be fully alert and awake. People with excessive sleepiness may feel as if they just do not have the energy to do the things they need to on a daily basis, such as spending time with their family or performing duties at work.

Generally, it is not uncommon for people suffering from excessive sleepiness to experience tiredness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating or paying attention, and low motivation.

If you experience any of these symptoms, despite adequate sleep, you may be suffering from excessive sleepiness resulting from a sleep disorder. It is important to consult your psychiatric ARNP about the sleepiness you are experiencing.

What is shift work sleep disorder (SWSD)?
Shift work sleep disorder is a sleep disorder that affects people who frequently rotate shifts or work at night, contrary to the body’s natural circadian rhythms, and cannot adjust to their schedule. It consists of a constant or recurrent pattern of sleep interruption that results in insomnia or excessive sleepiness. Shift work sleep disorder is common in people who work nontraditional hours, usually between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am.

How many people suffer from shift work sleep disorder?
Nearly six million full-time employees in the US work at night on a regular or rotating basis.  Approximately one quarter, or 1.5 million, of these night shift workers are estimated to have, and continuously suffer from SWSD.

What are the symptoms of shift work sleep disorder?
The most common symptoms of shift work sleep disorder are insomnia and excessive sleepiness. Other symptoms of shift work sleep disorder include difficulty concentrating, headaches, and lack of energy. Not every shift worker suffers from shift work sleep disorder. However, if you are a shift worker and experience any of these symptoms, you should talk to your psychiatric provider.

What are the consequences of shift work sleep disorder?
Consequences of shift work sleep disorder include increased risk of accidents, work-related errors, and increased use of sick leave.

How is excessive sleepiness associated with shift work sleep disorder treated?
Until recently, there were no medications approved to treat excessive sleepiness associated with shift work sleep disorder.


Do you have excessive sleepiness?

Take the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) test and find out.


The Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS)

The ESS is a questionnaire designed to evaluate levels of excessive sleepiness. This test is a standardized screening tool used extensively by the American Association of Sleep Medicine that will help you measure your general level of sleepiness. It asks you to rate the chances that you would doze off or fall asleep during different routine situations. Answers to the questions are rated from 0 to 3, with 0 meaning you would never doze or fall asleep in a given situation, and 3 meaning that there is a very high likelihood that you would doze or fall asleep in that situation.

Sitting and reading
0 1 2 3
Watching television
0 1 2 3
Sitting inactive in a public place, for example, a theater or meeting 0 1 2 3
As a passenger in a car for an hour without a break
0 1 2 3
Lying down to rest in the afternoon 0 1 2 3
Sitting and talking to someone
0 1 2 3
Sitting quietly after lunch (when you've had no alcohol)
0 1 2 3
In a car, while stopped in traffic 0 1 2 3


The Epworth Sleepiness Scale Key

Total score of less than 10 suggests that you may not be suffering from excessive sleepiness.

A total score of 10 or more suggests that you may need further evaluation by a physician to determine the cause of your excessive sleepiness and whether you have an underlying sleep disorder.

Contact Rainier Professional Psychiatry