A national survey found that difficulty sleeping and the resulting sleepiness, fatigue, reduced psychomotor performance, impaired memory, accidents, excessive absenteeism, and more, result in $63.2 billion in annual losses to U.S. industry.  Some of these costs could be reduced with insomnia disease treatment.

About 20% of the population is comprised of shift workers.  Shift work includes both long-term night shifts and work schedules in which employees change or rotate shifts.  The disorder is characterized by insomnia, poor cognitive performance at night, and fatigue, as well as a higher risk for accidents, depression, stress, tobacco and alcohol addiction, hypertension, cancer, gastrointestinal problems, heart disease, obesity, sleep apnea and more.

Daytime sleep generally is not the same quality as an equal amount of night time sleep.  Shift workers need all the stages of sleep in expected proportions to have truly restorative sleep. The circadian rhythm, a 24 hour cycle of all living beings, is driven mostly by daylight.   The misalignment of this rhythm is what causes sleepiness.

Light therapy has emerged as the most reliable means of dealing with circadian misalignment, simply because bright light is the most potent motivator of wakefulness.  Investigators tried several tactics to help patients who suffer from Shift Disorder including light therapy 4-5 times for 15-minutes during the night shift to help delay their circadian rhythm.  Patients were also advised to wear sunglasses to keep them from reacting to the daylight on their ride home. 

Researchers concluded that families, and friends, as well as employers, must cooperate with shift workers to help them achieve a better sleep phase position.  Support by employers may benefit the worker with higher productivity, greater worker morale, fewer sick days, and reduces health cost.

If you feel you may have a sleep disorder.  Please contact the Sleep Institute of New England at 603-347-8810 to make an appointment.


Newitt, Valerie N. “Shining a Light on Circadian Alignment.” Advance for Respiratory Care & Sleep Medicine Dec. 2011: 23-24. Print.

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