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Chronobiol Int. 2008 Apr;25(2):413-23. doi: 10.1080/07420520802106769.

Effects of 6/6 and 4/8 watch systems on sleepiness among bridge officers.

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  • 1Centre of Expertise on Human Factors at Work, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland.


During the last ten years, severe sleepiness or falling asleep by watch keeping officers has been a direct or a contributing factor in a number of maritime accidents. This study examined the relationship between two watch systems and its impact on fatigue and sleepiness in bridge officers. A questionnaire and a sleep/work diary were sent to a representative sample of the Finnish Maritime Officer Association. In all, 185 bridge officers answered the questionnaire on sleep, work hours, and safety, including the Skogby Excessive Daytime Sleepiness index (SEDS); 42% of the bridge officers worked two 4 h watches (4/8) per day, while 26% worked two 6 h watches per day (6/6). Ninety-five of the participants completed a sleep diary for seven consecutive days while at sea. The timing of the watch duties and sleep was recorded, as was subjective sleepiness every 2 h using the Karolinska Sleepiness Scale (KSS). 17.6% of the participants had fallen asleep at least once while on duty during their career. Compared to the 4/8 watch system, the officers working the 6/6 watch system reported shorter sleep durations, more frequent nodding-off on duty (7.3% vs. 1.5%), and excessive sleepiness (32% vs. 16% with SEDS>14). Based on a logistic regression analysis, high SEDS was significantly related with probable obstructive sleep apnea (OR 5.7), the 6/6 watch system (OR 4.0), and morningness-eveningness while controlling simultaneously several individual and sleep-related factors. Subjective sleepiness (KSS) was highest at 04:00 and 06:00 h. In a multivariate analysis, the KSS was significantly related to time of day, time after awaking, sleep length, and interactions of the watch systems with age, morningness-eveningness, and Epworth sleepiness scale (ESS) score. Severe sleepiness at 04:00-06:00 h was especially problematic in the 6/6 watch system among evening types and among the bridge officers with high ESS. The results suggest the 6/6 watch system is related to a higher risk of severe sleepiness during the early morning hours compared to the 4/8 and the other watch systems assessed.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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