Feature Archive

How Did You Sleep Last Night?

Your sleep personality may reveal why you may not be getting enough sleep.

By Richard Trubo
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Charlotte Grayson, MD

For most of her life, Carol Smith has never had much trouble with sleep . But all of that changed when she began working a 12-hour graveyard shift -- from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. -- as a 911 dispatcher.

At times, she says she's had to struggle to stay awake and alert on the job. "It was very difficult for me," she recalls. "I'd get real fidgety, and doing any kind of paperwork was hard because it was so tough to concentrate. At times, I felt so uncomfortable that I just wanted to crawl out of my skin."

But then Carol found relief. She participated in a sleep study at Henry Ford Medical Center in Detroit, and was diagnosed with "shift work sleep disorder" (SWSD), a condition that affects people whose sleep-wake and lifestyle demands are out of sync with their normal biological (circadian) rhythms. It consists of symptoms of insomnia or excessive sleepiness that occur as transient phenomena in relation to work schedules.

She now takes a prescription medication called Provigil (modafinil), which promotes wakefulness in people with debilitating excessive sleepiness associated with SWSD.