The Modvigil blog has recently examined some prospective uses for Modafinil. Today we will be looking at one of the on-label uses for Modafinil, that is to say one that doctors actually prescribe the drug as treatment for Modafinil’s potential applications continue to be researched and examined daily. However, it’s interesting to examine one of the more recently approved uses for Modafinil: Treating Shift Work Sleep Disorder.
What is Shift Work Sleep Disorder?
Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD) is a somewhat difficult condition to define precisely because a wide variety of potential symptoms can occur to differing degrees among patients. The name of the disorder does explain a lot, though. The term shift work in this instance refers to regular working hours that fall outside the boundaries of normal sleeping hours.
So what are normal sleeping hours? Every human body differs to some extent in regards to how many hours of sleep they need. This is perfectly normal, and the body’s needs fluctuate throughout life. Children for instance need much more sleep than grown adults, and the elderly often are known for waking up early and sleeping less. Generally speaking the widely-accepted number of 8 hours a day is typical, and coincides nicely with the number of daylight hours.
The human body has evolved to sleep at night. When the eye views darkness for an extended period of time, it triggers the release of melatonin. This neurotransmitter cues up the brain for sleep by making you feel tired or sleepy. Typically this release happens about two hours before you are supposed to go to sleep, and should cease two hours before you wake up. 8 hours of sleep, plus two transitional hours at the beginning and at the end, and you have 12 hours, half a day. In other words, a perfect cycle of twelve up and twelve down.
But what happens when you can’t sleep during those nighttime hours? As anyone who has pulled an all-nighter can attest to, you’ll suffer the consequences later. Your body will try to revert back to its natural rhythm any time you resist it. Ultimately, it is this phenomenon that causes SWSD.
Take a look at this user experience submitted by a Modvigil user named Ryan, from Pennsylvania:
“It’s hard to explain how your body feels working midnight shift (11PM-7AM) unless you’ve experienced it. Of course the first day is almost impossible. Your body is forced to operate about 12 hours longer than normal. A few days pass and you gradually start to adjust. It’s never easy though. Driving to work at night would make me feel tired. The first couple hours of work were groggy, but the lights in the warehouse would wake me up again. Caffeine powered me through the night. I’d leave the warehouse only to be greeted by a blazing sun in the morning. I’d get a second wind, which made it hard to go to sleep once I got home. I’d typically go to bed around 8:30 AM, and wake up at 3:30-4 PM. Except it was never completely perfect sleep. My wife and children would be stomping around the house while I tried to rest. Blackout curtains helped, but light still slipped through the cracks and would wake me up.
Weekends were awful. I’d finish work Saturday morning, and be expected to be up for lunch around 1. Then I would stay up until about 3-4 AM that night due to my habits. The next morning I’d be up around 10 AM on Sunday. By Monday morning, I’d be almost back to a regular schedule, forcing me to do yet another 24 hour day. The horrible cycle of suffering, getting used to it, and returning to normal would occur literally every week.”
There are few things I’d like to highlight from Ryan’s experience. The first is how his natural bodily cycle was constantly being modified or resisted in some way. The second is that even though he was able to sleep for 8 hours a day, the quality of that sleep was nowhere near where it needed to be. And thirdly, he faced a brutal 24 hour Monday every week for a year.
What Effect does Shift Work Sleep Disorder have on People?
You might read that and think “Well suck it up” or “Get a new job” but the reality isn’t so simple. SWSD affects people from all walks of life and all income brackets. From medical professionals to coal miners, dockworkers to fast food restaurant personnel, international currency traders to security guards, SWSD is a reality for the innumerable men and women who work all night so that you don’t have to. Jobs tend to pay better rates for people working these rough hours, and so getting a new job might mean earning less, which for many today is not an option.
Ryan continued his report by telling us about a harrowing experience.
“I realized I had to change something when I was driving home one cloudy morning and I got into a car accident. This was after about a year of working midnights. I could feel myself nodding off the whole way home. I opened the windows, turned up the radio, blasted the AC, whatever I could to stay awake. At a red light I fell asleep and slumped onto the gas pedal, or so I was told. My next memory was me in an ambulance, being hauled off for an MRI. An elderly woman’s car had been hit by mine, leaving her injured. Apparently I had hit a second car after that, injuring an immigrant worker who was the sole breadwinner in her home. My work schedule ended up affecting other people’s lives and wellbeing.”
SWSD ends up leaving people feeling perpetually tired and exhausted and can lead to a lack of focus, energy, and concentration in key moments. It can also lead to incidents such as the one Ryan described. Unfortunately there is no simple way to manually adjust a person’s circadian rhythms and natural body function. Essentially, those who have to live life beyond the body’s standard clock are doomed to a never-ending discomfort that constantly seeks to do them harm.
What can Modafinil do for Shift Work Sleep Disorder patients?
This is where Modafinil has proven to be a source of relief and stability for these hard working and downtrodden individuals. Clinical trials have shown that Modafinil not only increases energy and focus during difficult working hours, but also helps to regulate the body’s natural rhythms as well.
Modafinil has been proven to give users the energy they need for about 12 hours on a single dose. This pharmaceutical effect is strong enough to overcome the tiredness associated with SWSD. What this means is that workers who have to trudge through late-night shifts are able to do so at optimum performance, regardless of their previous sleep schedules. How did Modafinil help Ryan with his horrendous Monday routine?
“I started taking Modafinil on a Monday, figuring that I’d have a long day ahead of me as usual. I took two doses that day, one in the morning and one in the evening. The first was around 9 AM and I felt charged up until about 7 PM. I took the second dose at 8, and worked the whole night without a single hiccup. I felt tired at the usual time, when I arrived at home around 8 AM, and went straight to bed. This was without a doubt for me the best Monday I had worked since starting this shift nearly a year ago.”
Modafinil gave Ryan the ability to keep working without letup, despite a grueling schedule and nearly unmanageable workload. But what about long term results? He continues,
“I realized that the 24 hour Monday was the reason I felt tired every week. After using Modafinil for that first Monday, my sleeping hours immediately fell into line so to speak on Tuesday. The rest of the week was a breeze and I had no trouble assuming a normal routine (at least normal for me.) On the weekends, when I needed to be awake to be with my family, I’d take Modafinil as soon as I woke up, and I’d be ready to go. Come Monday, I’d do another double-dose and switch right back to my midnight schedule as if nothing had happened at all. It somehow made it completely easy to switch from one mode to another.”
This is just one such experience. Modafinil users have consistently shown that taking Modafinil helps with SWSD and makes it possible to live a normal and fulfilling life despite a demanding daily regimen. Today’s jobs exceed the limits of what the human body is naturally capable of. Modafinil not only helps people meet, but go beyond those limits. With a regulated system and regular use Modafinil has aided numerous late-shift workers with their routines, and has helped countless families and individuals in the process.
Should I take Modafinil for Sleep Work Shift Disorder?
If you’re working a difficult shift work job, such as the one Ryan described, you should ask your doctor about Modafinil. SWSD is one of Modafinil’s on-label applications, meaning that it is approved by the FDA for this specific instance. And it has proven to be one of the most effective ways of dealing with SWSD. So if you feel similar to Ryan, or have noticed that your work schedule is getting in the way of your personal life, consider Modafinil as a possible solution. You should always consult your doctor before trying a new medication, but remember that Modafinil is safe, and tested for this exact scenario.
The Modvigil blog will continue to report on Modafinil’s various uses and applications as new research becomes publically available. In addition, we will continue to assess the on-label uses for this amazing pill. Stay tuned and bookmark The Modvigil Blog for more updates on Modafinil’s many benefits.