Shift worker sleep associated with chronotype

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Sleep Disorders | Sleep Review

McGill University researchers have found a link between chronotype and the number of sleep shifts that may occur with their irregular work hours.

“Some people seem to be prepared to sleep early, while others tend to sleep late. This preference, called the chronotype, is modulated by our circadian system – each person’s unique internal timer, “said lead author Diane B. Boivin, MD, PhD, professor in the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University.

Her study, published in Sleep, examines the relationship between chronotype and sleep behavior in shift workers during the morning, evening and night shift. To investigate this link, the researchers chased 74 police officers during their usual shifts. For almost a month, the officers wore a watch-like device that the researchers could use to measure their sleep.

“Our results suggest that the influence of the chronotype on the length of sleep and nap behavior depends on the type of shift. Early risers sleep an average of 1.1 hours longer on the morning shift, while night owls sleep two hours longer on the evening shift, ”said co-author Laura Kervezee, PhD, a former postdoctoral fellow at the Douglas Research Center at McGill University, in a press release .

While shift workers took naps to reduce the impact of their irregular hours on their sleep, the researchers found that this behavior was more pronounced during night shifts in early risers. In general, early risers slept less than night owls after their night shifts – but they also took more naps before their night shifts, so their overall daily sleep was similar.

The results could help develop strategies for improving sleep in workers with atypical schedules, the researchers say. Such strategies could include work plans that take chronobiological principles into account.

“People who work shifts are at increased risk of sleep disorders and fragmented sleep phases. Since sleep is essential for optimal performance, health and well-being, it is important to develop strategies for better recovery, ”said Boivin, who is also director of the Center for Study and Treatment of Circadian Rhythms at Douglas Research Center.

As a next step, the researchers hope to examine the effects of chronotype and shift work on other health outcomes.

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