Can Shift Work Disorder Cause Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

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shift work

While shift work disorder does not cause obstructive sleep apnea, it can aggravate an existing sleep apnea condition. Workers with nighttime schedules who must sleep during the day may experience more severe symptoms of sleep apnea than other patients who have night sleep routines.

What Is Shift Work Sleep Disorder?

Shift work disorder occurs in individuals who work spilt shifts, graveyard shifts, early morning shifts or rotating shifts. Shift work can demand inconsistent sleep patterns and sleep during the day when the body naturally is awake, disrupting the body’s biological clock, which may impact health over time. Only 63% of shift workers (versus 89% of non-shift workers workers) said their work schedule allows them to get enough sleep.1

What Are the Symptoms of Shift Work Sleep Disorder?

Shift workers may experience excessive drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, a chronic lack of energy, depression and even difficulty getting to sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation can be unhealthy and even dangerous. An estimated 5000 people died in car accidents caused by drowsy driving in 2015.1

How to Deal with Shift Work Sleep Disorder?

For many workers who cannot change their work hours, there are some solutions to minimize the health effects of shift work sleep disorder.

  • Though it may be difficult, try to keep a consistent sleep schedule, even on days off
  • Try to take 48 hours off after a series of shifts
  • Take naps when possible
  • Limit caffeinated beverages four hours before you go to bed
  • Try to maintain a healthy diet
  • Cover your eyes when you sleep to encourage a dark environment and avoid computers, TV and your cell phone before going to bed

Shift Work Sleep Disorder and Obstructive Sleep Apnea

If you have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea and work odd shifts, stay compliant with your CPAP machine use during your bedtime. CPAP compliance will promote better sleep and help you stay healthy and feel better during your waking hours.

How do You Know if You Have Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

While shift work sleep disorder may be causing your symptoms, sleep apnea may also be a factor. It’s important to speak to your doctor about shift work sleep disorder and be tested for sleep apnea.

A visit to a sleep clinic for testing isn’t always easy for shift workers. You can choose a home sleep test instead to receive an accurate diagnosis on your own schedule. You can find out more about a home sleep test from Sleep Care Online.

How Does a Home Sleep Apnea Test Work?

Purchase a Complete Care Package from Sleep Care Online to receive your home sleep apnea test. WatchPAT ONE E, a testing device that consists of only 2 points of contact will be mailed to your door. Follow the instructions to sync the WatchPAT ONE E to your smartphone and take the test in the comfort of your own bed. Test results are ready the following day. Then you will be able to schedule a 10-minute telehealth visit with one of our sleep practitioners to review the test and, if necessary, receive a prescription for therapy.

Home sleep apnea tests and telehealth services are now available nationwide. Call 866-465-4478 or email for more information.


  1. Shift Work Disorder. September 2020
  2. National Safety Council. Drivers are Falling Asleep Behind the Wheel. Accessed September 2020.
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