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Aviat Space Environ Med. 1997 Jan;68(1):18-23.

A study of USAF air traffic controller shiftwork: sleep, fatigue, activity, and mood analyses.

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U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, Brooks AFB, TX 96266-5823, USA.



The purpose of this study was to evaluate the shift-specific sleep, general activity levels, mood and cognitive performance of air traffic controllers (ATCs) working a forward 2-2-2 rapid rotation shift schedule.


ATCs are more fatigued on the night-shift.


ATCs recorded their sleep, oral temperature and subjective fatigue levels, took a computerized cognitive performance battery (n = 13) and completed the Profile of Mood States questionnaire (POMS) (n = 12). Actigraphs were used to objectively monitor general activity levels and score sleep and the restfullness of scored sleep (n = 9). Analyses were made on the basis of duty shift, post-shift, day of shift, and duty location.


There was significantly more actigraph scored sleep (85 min, p = 0.038), subjectively reported sleep (26 min, p = 0.009) and subjectively measured fatigue (p < 0.001) and confusion (p = 0.003) for the ATCs while they were on-duty on the night-shift. The night-shift was also associated with decreased vigor (p = 0.039) and general activity levels (p = 0.017). Significantly more sleep was reported (7.6 h, p = 0.01) and scored by actigraph (4.7 h, p = 0.02) following the swing-shift than following the day-shift. The radar approach ATCs reported greater confusion (p = 0.019) and less vigor (p = 0.002) than the tower ATCs. Insufficient trials were available for direct performance analysis.


ATCs on the night-shift of a forward rapid rotation shift schedule appear to be falling asleep and report increased confusion and fatigue. Further study is indicated.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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