Fatigue Research/studies Worker health and wellness

‘Catching up’ on sleep may not help worker alertness: study

State College, PA – Workers whose alertness has been reduced through lack of sleep may not be able to fully recover merely by sleeping in on weekends, concludes a study from Penn State University.

For the study, researchers put 30 healthy adults on a schedule of six hours of sleep for six consecutive nights followed by 10 hours of sleep for three nights, according to the study abstract.

Health and performance assessments showed participants were less sleepy and less stressed after they had a few days to catch up on sleep. However, their alertness continued to suffer. After mild sleep deprivation, people performed poorly on tests measuring the ability to pay attention, and their scores did not improve with the “weekend” of rest.

These findings may be especially relevant for workers in safety-critical professions, such as health care workers and pilots, researchers said in a press release. They also warned continued lack of sleep could have even more negative effects over a longer period of time.

The study was published online Oct. 1 in the American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism.