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The best and worst work schedules: Shift start times can impact sleep and alertness
Date:6/7/2010

WESTCHESTER, IL Regulations that limit the number of hours worked also should provide guidance for shift start times to maximize workers' sleep opportunity and minimize the risk of on-the-job fatigue, according to a research abstract that will be presented Tuesday, June 8, 2010, in San Antonio, Texas, at SLEEP 2010, the 24th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC.

Results indicate that estimated sleep durations varied from 4.5 hours to eight hours according to the start time of the work shift. The maximum estimated sleep duration occurred when the work shift started between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., and the minimum estimated sleep duration occurred when the shift began between 8 p.m. and midnight.

"Our most interesting finding was that shifts beginning between 8 p.m. and midnight yielded consistently poorer predicted performance and less than adequate predicted total sleep per 24 hours," said lead author Angela Bowen, research assistant at the Sleep and Performance Research Center at Washington State University Spokane.

The study also predicted that minimum on-the-job fatigue occurred when the shift started at 9 a.m., and maximum fatigue occurred when the work shift began at 11 p.m. Furthermore, there was a relatively sudden decrease in predicted fatigue for duty periods starting after midnight compared with shifts that started just before midnight. The researchers explained that work schedules with start times after midnight allowed workers to sleep right before the duty period, which meant that they were better-rested when the shift began. In contrast, shifts that started just before midnight did not allow for pre-shift sleep because the timing conflicted with the body's early evening circadian process.

The results suggest that in addition to implementing regulations that limit the number of hours worked in a 24-hour period, employers should schedule shift start times in a way that maximizes sleep
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Contact: AASM Director of Communications Kathleen McCann
kmccann@aasmnet.org
708-492-0930
American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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