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Free Content Sleep–wake rhythm in an irregular shift system

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Sleep in shift work has been studied extensively in regular shift systems but to a lesser degree in irregular shifts. Our main aim was to examine the sleep–wake rhythm in shift combinations ending with the night or the morning shift in two irregular shift systems. Three weeks' sleep/work shift diary data, collected from 126 randomly selected train drivers and 104 traffic controllers, were used in statistical analyses including a linear mixed model and a generalized linear model for repeated measurements. The results showed that the sleep–wake rhythm was significantly affected by the shift combinations. The main sleep period before the first night shift shortened by about 2 h when the morning shift immediately preceded the night shift as compared with the combination containing at least 36 h of free time before the night shift (reference combination). The main sleep period before the night shift was most curtailed between two night shifts, on average by 2.9 and 3.5 h among the drivers and the controllers, respectively, as compared with the reference combination. Afternoon napping increased when the morning or the day shift immediately preceded the night shift, the odds being 4.35–4.84 in comparison with the reference combination. The main sleep period before the morning shift became 0.5 h shorter when the evening shift preceded the morning shift in comparison with the sleep period after a free day. The risk for dozing off during the shift was associated only with the shift length, increasing by 17 and 35% for each working hour in the morning and the night shift, respectively. The results demonstrate advantageous and disadvantageous shift combinations in relation to sleep and make it possible to improve the ergonomy of irregular shift systems.
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Keywords: dozing off; naps; railway traffic controllers; shift work; sleep; train drivers

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Brain and Work Research Units, and 2: Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland

Publication date: 2003-06-01

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