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Hum Factors. 1994 Jun;36(2):269-84.

Fatigue and the shiftworker: firefighters working on a rotating shift schedule.

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University of Connecticut, Psychology Department, Storrs 06269.


Fatigue has often been viewed as a simple variable that is positively correlated with time on task in the workplace and is produced mainly by physical activity. However, shiftwork researchers have demonstrated time-of-day differences for variables including sleepiness and mood, thereby challenging this notion of fatigue. Using a within-subjects design, the present study advances this research by searching for differences in time-of-day interactions in firefighters' sleep length, sleepiness, and mood ratings as a function of shift. We examined reductions in sleep length associated with shiftwork and used sleepiness and mood scales to assess the effects of these reductions. Participants completed surveys throughout a complete cycle of their shift schedule. The study showed that firefighters working on a rotating 8-h shift schedule will sleep less and will report lower positive mood scores, higher negative mood scores, and greater sleepiness ratings on the night shift. Additionally, it was shown that over the course of a shift (two weeks), firefighters were unable to adapt to changes in their sleep schedule. Finally, the significant interactions that were observed challenge the historical, singular notion of fatigue.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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