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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1996 May;81(5):1867-70.

Short-term night-shift working mimics the pituitary-adrenocortical dysfunction in chronic fatigue syndrome.

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Department of Medicine, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom.


The purpose of this study was to determine whether a short period (5 days) of night-shift work affected the pituitary-adrenal responses to CRH. Ten nurses (8 female and 2 male; age 28.1 +/- 1.7 yr: mean +/- SEM) working at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, and who regularly undertook periods of night and day shift work were enrolled. Measurements were made of basal ACTH and cortisol concentrations, and their responses to iv ovine CRH (1 Basal ACTH concentrations were higher during the night shift than during the day shift (12.9 +/- 5.1 pmol.L-1 vs. 4.7 +/- 1.2 pmol.L-1, P < 0.01) whereas cortisol concentrations were lower (551 +/- 48 nmol.L - 1 vs. 871 +/- 132 nmol.L - 1, P < 0.01). After CRH injection, ACTH concentrations remained consistently higher during the night shift, but the integrated increase in ACTH concentration was lower (P < 0.05) than during the day shift. Conversely, the increase in cortisol concentration was greater during the night shift than the day shift (283 +/- 53 nmol.L-1 vs. 134 +/- 41 nmol.L-1, P < 0.05). We conclude that the pituitary-adrenal responses to CRH are markedly disrupted after only 5 days of nighttime work. These abnormalities mimic those previously observed in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. Neuroendocrine abnormalities reported to be characteristic of chronic fatigue syndrome may be merely the consequence of disrupted sleep and social routine.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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