Night shift workers often face cognitive impairment as they complete tasks through the night. However, a new study shared by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests the reason is strongly linked to insomnia rather sleepiness.
Published in this month’s issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, the study included 34 night shift workers, with 26 of the participants having been diagnosed with shift work disorder.
Shift work disorder is characterized by a reduction in total sleep time along with complaints of insomnia or excessive sleepiness. The sleep disorder commonly affects employees with a recurring work schedule, such as night shifts or rotating shifts, as their work schedule interferes with the normal time for sleep.
Conducted in an overnight lab at Henry Ford Hospital in Michigan, the participants were asked to stay awake in a private, dimly lit room for 25 hours as their brain activity was measured using a EEG cap. The researchers analyzed areas of the brain associated with memory and attention, and the participants completed an event-related task to allow their functional abilities to be assessed.
The findings show that night shift workers who considered themselves as alert insomniacs experienced the most impaired work productivity and cognitive functioning, than sleepy insomniacs. Alert insomniacs also reported being significantly more exhausted sleepy insomniacs, helping to solidify the importance difference between exhaustion and sleepiness.
Working the night shift can lead to serious health risks in the long-term, compared to those with a consistent daytime work schedule. However, if you must work the night shift, it’s still important to make the effort to achieve quality snooze. To find out how to make the most of sleeping during the day, click here!