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What is Shift Work Disorder?

Shift work disorder (SWD) is a recognized medical condition that can be diagnosed and treated. It occurs when the body's internal clock, or circadian rhythm, is out of sync with your work schedule. The circadian rhythm helps regulate different functions; including sleeping and waking. Disruption of the circadian rhythm can lead to excessive sleepiness during waking hours and or trouble sleeping during sleeping hours.

SWD Is Common

  • As many as 20% of US workers are involved in some form of shift work, including permanent or intermittent night work, early morning work, or rotating schedules.
  • Approximately 10% to 25% of night-workers and rotating-shift workers have shift work disorder meaning that up to 1 out of every 4 nights or rotating-shift workers may be suffering from shift work disorder.
  • Over 15 million Americans work non-traditional shifts and are "at risk" for SWD. Of these, 3.75 million Americans are estimated to have SWD.

Signs a Person Could Have SWD

Shift work disorder is an often undiagnosed condition in which excessive sleepiness and/or insomnia are the main symptoms.


  • Excessive Sleepiness - Excessive sleepiness is defined as having trouble staying awake. People who experience excessive sleepiness often describe it as being tired, fatigued or lacking energy.
  • Insomnia - Insomnia affects the length and quality of sleep. Insomnia can be difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, waking up too early, and poor quality of sleep.

SWD Can Lead to Other Quality of Life Concerns

These are just some of the problems people with shift work disorder may experience:

  • Trouble focusing
  • Drop in work performance
  • Missed family and social activities
  • Worsening of heart and stomach disorders
  • Sleepiness-related accidents
  • Increased irritability

*Additional information on SWD can be found at


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