It is well known that rotating shift workers have a hard time getting enough sleep, and a new study helps to explain why. The findings will be useful to ergonomists and other professionals who design shift patterns to lessen the ill effects of disrupting the natural sleep cycle. These are well known, and include a higher risk of illness and accidents and impaired performance.
Led by Carlos J. Pirola, Ph.D., a team at the Universidad de Buenos Aires in
The researchers say the findings “may be important for targeting effective therapeutic strategies to ameliorate the associated comorbidities and behavioral problems in rotating shift workers.” The term “comorbidities” refers to the coexistence of two or more disease processes.
The researchers also noted that many of the ill effects of the rotating shift pattern have long been associated with disruption of the circadian rhythm, the natural 24-hour cycle that prompts the body to stay awake when it is light and sleep when it is dark. Shifts often put workers on the opposite cycle, which almost guarantees sleep difficulties.
Study after study links sleep deprivation with poor judgment and performance on the job. In June 2006 Ergonomics Today™ reported research in
Sources: Sleep; Ergonomics Today™