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Tool aims to diagnose sleep disorders caused by shift work

December 5, 2012

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Melbourne, Australia – A new screening tool from a group of international researchers aims to reduce cardiovascular disease and cancer caused by shift work.

Developed by researchers from Monash University in Australia, Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Henry Ford Hospital, the tool is a worker questionnaire intended to help identify a shift work disorder.

Shift work disorder is characterized by extreme sleepiness or insomnia among employees who do not work normal hours, and is thought to affect about 10 percent of shift workers, according to a press release from Monash University. Workers with shift work disorder account for a “significant proportion” of employees at risk of occupational injuries, and shift work has been associated with cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as mood disorders such as depression, the release stated.

An analysis of the 26-item Shiftwork Disorder Screening Questionnaire, published in the journal Sleep (Vol. 35, No. 12), showed that 311 shift workers completed the questionnaire and were evaluated by a sleep specialist to determine whether they had shift work disorder. Researcher Shantha Rajaratnam of Monash and Harvard Universities called the tool "an important step in better understanding causes of vulnerability to shift work and targeting interventions to those who most need them."

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