Sleepiness, alertness and performance during a laboratory simulation of an acute shift of the wake-sleep cycle

S Porcu, A Bellatreccia, M Ferrara, M Casagrande
Ergonomics 1998, 41 (8): 1192-202
Monitoring the presence of sleepiness on the job and its effects on performance is of primary importance for improving schedule systems of shiftworkers. Shiftworkers, often involved in night-time operations and irregular work schedules, frequently complain of nocturnal sleepiness especially in conditions of abrupt shift of the wake-sleep cycle. In this study, the authors evaluated the effects of a laboratory simulation of acute night-shift changes on sleepiness, vigilance and performance, using Maintenance of Wakefulness Test, Multiple Sleep Latency Test and three pencil and paper tests: Digit Symbol Substitution Test, 'Deux Barrages' Test and a 3-Letter Cancellation Task. All of the tests were administered four times at 2-hourly intervals during the night after daytime sleep. Results showed that the ability to maintain wakefulness and to perform simple visuo-attentive tasks is substantially spared during the night. On the other hand, sleep tendency and performance on a more complex and monotonous task (Letter Cancellation Task) reveal, respectively, increasing sleepiness and degrading performance.

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