Research/studies Shift work

Study of shift workers with insomnia shows those who don’t feel sleepy may be more impaired

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Photo: RyanSebastyan/iStock/Thinkstock

Detroit – Night-shift workers who experience insomnia but report low levels of sleepiness have higher levels of cognitive impairment than those with insomnia who say they experience “excessive” sleepiness, according to a recent study from the Sleep Disorders and Research Center at Henry Ford Hospital.

Researchers studied 34 night-shift workers, including 26 diagnosed with shift work disorder, which is caused by working night or rotating shifts during the hours when people normally sleep. Participants wore a cap to monitor brain activity for attention and memory as they remained awake for 25 hours in a dim room. Their functional abilities, sleepiness, insomnia severity and productivity also were measured.

Night-shift workers who had insomnia but did not report excessive sleepiness displayed the most impairment in productivity and cognitive function, potentially affecting their safety at work, the study indicates.

Diminished alertness from shift work disorder could be a hazard at work and during commuting, an April 27 press release states.

The study was published in the April issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.