Shift Work: A Perspective on Shift Work Disorder-Is Prevention the Answer?

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

J Clin Sleep Med


The prevalence of shift work in the United States is nearly 20%, but recognition of shift work disorder (SWD) among shift workers is still a challenge. The health care sector is no exception. While a substantial portion of shift workers are physicians and nurses, expertise in identifying SWD is lacking. Shift work adjustment occurs spontaneously in some individuals, but for others, it poses difficulties, including both sleep disturbance and insufficient sleep, leading to chronic excessive sleepiness and other long-term morbidities. Treatment is multifaceted and often requires pharmacologic therapy to address acute sleep-wake symptoms, as well as circadian interventions to realign intrinsic biological rhythms to the externally imposed shift-work schedule. The complexity and myriad obstacles of treating maladjustment to shift work after its manifestation, including determination of circadian phase, risk-benefit considerations in pharmacologic treatment, and behavioral/health risks associated with delaying intervention, suggest that prevention of SWD should be a priority. This article presents the personal experience of one author (Amit Gupta), identifies some of the issues faced by shift workers, especially medical trainees, and suggests a preventive approach to this complex problem that should be considered for future research and practical implementation in the clinic.

PubMed ID



ePub ahead of print