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Free Content Underlying sleep pathology may cause chronic high fatigue in shift-workers

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About 20–25% of the population in primary healthcare settings complains of chronic fatigue but this symptom has been under-emphasized compared with sleepiness in clinical practice. Shift-workers are particularly vulnerable because of various fatigue-related personal and public morbidity and mortality. The goal of this cross-sectional study was to explore if fatigue severity could be used as an independent predictive tool to identify underlying sleep pathology. The 21 most-fatigued (study group) and 23 least-fatigued (control) miners were selected on the basis of the Fatigue Severity Scale (FSS), which was administered to 195 subjects in an underground mine in Timmins, a town in northern Ontario. The two groups were matched for age, gender, and body mass index (BMI). Mean FSS score for the most-fatigued subjects was 4.9 ± 0.5 and the least-fatigued was 2.2 ± 0.5 (P < 0.0001). The subjects from each group were studied polysomnographically to identify sleep disorders. The polysomnographic data in 15 of 21 (71.4%) of the most-fatigued subjects displayed significant sleep pathology compared with only three of 23 (13.0%) in the least-fatigued subjects. Based on Fisher's exact test, the difference between the two groups was highly significant (P < 0.0001). Also, in the total subject pool (n = 195), the correlation between subjective fatigue and sleepiness was not very strong (Pearson's r = 0.45), suggesting that these two symptoms can be independent phenomena. It is concluded that chronic high fatigue can be an independent manifestation of underlying sleep pathology, which warrants independent subjective and objective assessment.
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Keywords: fatigue; shift-work; sleep pathology; sleepiness

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Sleep Research Laboratory and Department of Psychiatry, Toronto Western Hospital, University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Publication date: 2003-09-01

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