Shift work sleep disorder? …. Delirium?


It’s no secret. I don’t do very well working nights. I’m currently toughing it out after a twilight shift… and I had a thought.

… (yes.. I have them once in a while)

Shift work takes a toll on the body. It can cause some pretty significant disturbances in your every day life.

You body’s circadian rhythm is thrown off kilter and you don’t know if you’re coming or going.

Shift work sleep disorder:

  • Excessive sleepiness when you need to be awake, alert, and productive
  • Insomnia, or the inability to sleep when you need to. This can mean trouble falling asleep, or waking up before you’ve slept sufficiently.
  • Sleep that feels unrefreshing or insufficient
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lack of energy
  • Irritability or depression
  • Difficulty with personal relationships

Now, remember, I work in the ICU. We see and treat acute delirium quite often. It’s one of the driving reasons for discharge as soon as possible.

While in the ICU, there is no differentiation between night and day. 3am workflow functions almost the same as 3pm workflow in the ICU. We operate in a 24 hour time schedule because of how sick patients can be. Couple that with rooms without windows and you can imagine how easily a patient can succumb to Delirium.


  • An inability to stay focused on a topic or to switch topics
  • Getting stuck on an idea rather than responding to questions or conversation
  • Being easily distracted by unimportant things
  • Being withdrawn, with little or no activity or little response to the environment
  • Poor memory, particularly of recent events
  • Disorientation, for example, not knowing where you are or who you are
  • Difficulty speaking or recalling words
  • Rambling or nonsense speech
  • Trouble understanding speech
  • Difficulty reading or writing
  • Seeing things that don’t exist (hallucinations)
  • Restlessness, agitation or combative behavior
  • Calling out, moaning or making other sounds
  • Being quiet and withdrawn — especially in older adults
  • Slowed movement or lethargy
  • Disturbed sleep habits
  • Reversal of night-day sleep-wake cycle

Uhh… did you see what I did there?

Things that make you go hmmmm….




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One thought on “Shift work sleep disorder? …. Delirium?

  1. “Shift work sleep disorder” definitely sounds like one of those overly complicated names they give to something to make it sound like something else. Shift work sleep disorder = you aren’t sleeping at night like you’re really supposed to. It’s not a disorder!

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