The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Irregular Work Schedule

Do you ever feel like your inconsistent work schedule has robbed you of precious sleep? 

The seemingly never-ending cycle of shifting work hours and an irregular sleep schedule takes a real toll on your physical and mental health. 

With an erratic work schedule, it can be hard to find the time (and desire) for proper rest and rejuvenation. Without a complete 8-hour sleep cycle each night, physical and mental health decline rapidly.

Studies have revealed that adults getting less than the recommended seven to nine hours of nightly rest are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and irritability - all indicators that proper care for some well-deserved shut-eye is necessary!

Irregular Work Shifts and Your Circadian Rhythm

Image 1: Irregular work shifts and circadian rhythm: affects human’s body holistically

The circadian rhythm is an intricate timekeeper that helps to meticulously regulate the sleep-wake cycle of our bodies. 

When we work a shift, however, this delicate clockwork can become out of sync with its external environment — resulting in mental and physical fatigue on the job or wide awake nights when rest should be achieved. 

Even more challenging for those who must slumber during daylight hours due to their employment schedule: light acts as a cue so strong it often overrides even our deepest desire for regular repose.

Because of this, Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD) can arise when a person's natural sleep cycle is persistently disrupted. One frequent cause of SWSD is overnight or rotating shift work. 

Sleep is governed by a person's circadian rhythm, which is their natural sleep cycle within 24 hours. 

And, most people have a circadian rhythm telling them to sleep at night and remain alert during the day. Staying awake at night and sleeping during the day conflicts with this natural rhythm. 

When you work night shifts, you create a juxtaposition between your work requirements and your body's instincts - leading to  issues such as shift work sleep disorder

Sleep Apnea linked to Irregular Work Schedule

Image 2: The link between irregular work schedule and sleep apnea

Another sleep issue related to an irregular work schedule is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea occurs when a person temporarily stops breathing during sleep due to blocked airways. It can cause loud snoring, frequent awakenings, and excessive sleepiness during the day.

For people who work irregular shifts, sleep apnea can be a major issue. Studies show that people who work irregular shifts are more likely to experience sleep apnea than those with a more consistent sleep schedule. 

Therefore, it is important to take steps to ensure that you are getting enough rest while managing your irregular schedule. It is also important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea so that you can seek medical help if needed. 

Signs and symptoms of sleep apnea can include:

  • loud snoring, disturbed sleep
  • excessive sleepiness during the day
  • irritability 
  • morning headaches 
  • memory loss 

In addition to these common sleep apnea symptoms, people may experience difficulty concentrating and have a hard time staying awake for long periods. Other symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, and a dry mouth may also occur.

The sleep apnea symptoms you may experience can vary depending on the severity of your sleep apnea. If left undiagnosed and untreated, sleep apnea can also increase the risk for other health complications such as stroke, heart attack, and high blood pressure. 

Therefore, it is important to seek medical help if you suspect you may have sleep apnea. Getting proper diagnosis and treatment can help improve sleep quality and reduce the risk of sleep apnea-related complications.

Tips for Better Sleep for Irregular Work Schedule

Image 3: Useful tips to have better sleep

It is important for shift workers to maintain the same sleep schedule.

  • Creating an environment that is designed for sleep can be helpful. This includes using black-out curtains, keeping the room cool, and using a high-quality pillow with good neck support.
  • Caffeine and sugar intake should be limited towards the end of a night shift so that falling asleep during the rest period is not difficult.
  • In addition to these tips, it is necessary to live a healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, and drinking plenty of water. 
  • If possible, keep your workplace brightly lit throughout the night to promote focus. Exposure to bright light from lightboxes and lamps can help with circadian-related sleep issues

Practice Healthy Sleep Habits

Image 4: Best healthy Sleep habits to beat sleep problems.

In conclusion, an irregular work schedule can have a serious impact on sleep quality and overall health. It is important to take steps to ensure that you are getting enough rest with an irregular schedule. Keeping a regular sleep routine and sticking to it can help improve your sleep quality.         

Lastly, being aware of the signs and symptoms of any sleep-related issues such as sleep apnea and Shift Work Sleep Disorder can help you identify if you have sleep apnea so that it can be properly diagnosed and treated. 

You can also check out the links below to know more about these sleep issues: 



Somnowell Inventor - Visiting Professor Simon Ash FDS MSc MOrth BDS

Prof. Ash is the inventor of the highly successful SOMNOWELL Chrome device for snoring and sleep apnoea.

The Somnowell Chrome is made to exacting standards in the Somnowell laboratory under the supervision of Visiting Professor Simon Ash. Prof. Ash and his master technicians create each Somnowell Chrome device using their wealth of experience and expertise.

Prof. Ash works at the forefront of his profession. He is a Consultant and Specialist Orthodontist with over 30 years clinical experience, with a special interest in sleep related breathing disorders, TMJD, and bruxism. He currently works in Harley Street London and two private hospitals in London as part of a multi-disciplinary team managing snoring and sleep apnoea, and is Visiting Professor of Orthodontics at the BPP University.