Mood, alertness, and performance in response to sleep deprivation and recovery sleep in experienced shiftworkers versus non-shiftworkers

Sophie M T Wehrens, Shelagh M Hampton, Myriam Kerkhofs, Debra J Skene
Chronobiology International 2012, 29 (5): 537-48
Previous studies have shown increased sleepiness and mood changes in shiftworkers, which may be due to sleep deprivation or circadian disruption. Few studies, however, have compared responses of experienced shiftworkers and non-shiftworkers to sleep deprivation in an identical laboratory setting. The aim of this laboratory study, therefore, was to compare long-term shiftworkers and non-shiftworkers and to investigate the effects of one night of total sleep deprivation (30.5 h of continuous wakefulness) and recovery sleep on psychomotor vigilance, self-rated alertness, and mood. Eleven experienced male shiftworkers (shiftwork ≥5 yrs) were matched with 14 non-shiftworkers for age (mean ± SD: 35.7 ± 7.2 and 32.5 ± 6.2 yrs, respectively) and body mass index (BMI) (28.7 ± 3.8 and 26.6 ± 3.4 kg/m(2), respectively). After keeping a 7-d self-selected sleep/wake cycle (7.5/8 h nocturnal sleep), both groups entered a laboratory session consisting of a night of adaptation sleep and a baseline sleep (each 7.5/8 h), a sleep deprivation night, and recovery sleep (4-h nap plus 7.5/8 h nighttime sleep). Subjective alertness and mood were assessed with the Karolinska Sleepiness Scale (KSS) and 9-digit rating scales, and vigilance was measured by the visual psychomotor vigilance test (PVT). A mixed-model regression analysis was carried out on data collected every hour during the sleep deprivation night and on all days (except for the adaptation day), at .25, 4.25, 5.25, 11.5, 12.5, and 13.5 h after habitual wake-up time. Despite similar circadian phase (melatonin onset), demographics, food intake, body posture, and environmental light, shiftworkers felt significantly more alert, more cheerful, more elated, and calmer than non-shiftworkers throughout the laboratory study. In addition, shiftworkers showed a faster median reaction time (RT) compared to non-shiftworkers, although four other PVT parameters did not differ between the groups. As expected, both groups showed a decrease in subjective alertness and PVT performance during and following the sleep deprivation night. Subjective sleepiness and most aspects of PVT performance returned to baseline levels after a nap and recovery sleep. The mechanisms underlying the observed differences between shiftworkers and non-shiftworkers require further study, but may be related to the absence of shiftwork the week prior to and during the laboratory study as well as selection into and out of shiftwork.

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