How Atypical Work Schedules Affect Performance

Home >> Ask The Expert >> How Atypical Work Schedules Affect Performance
Date:
Monday, December 10, 2012

Nearly one-quarter of all workers have shifts that are not during the daytime, and more than two-thirds of these workers have problem sleepiness and/or difficulty sleeping. (NHLBI, 2005)

One-third of shift workers state that they sleep less than six hours per night on workdays, and 30 percent report that they only get a good night’s sleep a few night’s per month or less. (NSF, 2008)

Some studies find that shift workers experience impairment caused by sleepiness at levels equivalent to that of being drunk. (Arnedt et al, 2005)

Shift workers are more prone to developing certain illnesses, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and gastrointestinal disorders. (Drake and Wright, 2011; Folkard and Tucker, 2003)

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified “shift work that involves circadian disruption” as a probable human carcinogen. (Stevens et al, 2010)

Some workers experience sleep disturbance and sleepiness even after months or years of shift work. (Drake and Wright, 2011)

Our increasingly 24/7, globalized work world demands that some people work at night, have extended work hours, or rotate between working night, day, and evening shifts. Nearly one-quarter of all workers have shifts that are not during the daytime, and more than two-thirds of these workers have problem sleepiness and/or difficulty sleeping. (NHLBI, 2005) In addition, nearly a third of Americans report working 10 hours or more each day. (NSF, 2008) Such extensive work hours can affect how much time workers have for sleep, as many on a limited time budget sacrifice sleep for needed leisure time, attention to domestic tasks, or multiple jobs.

Irregular or long hours put many workers at odds for acquiring enough quality sleep to function properly and operate machinery and vehicles safely. The drowsiness experienced by night shift workers can be especially dangerous. Not only are night-shift workers prone to serious driving accidents after their shifts end, but major industrial accidents, such as the Three Mile Island and the Exxon Valdez oil spill, have been caused, in part, by mistakes made by excessively sleepy workers on a night or extended shift. (NHLBI, 2005) In addition, night shift workers