Developing measures of fatigue using an alcohol comparison to validate the effects of fatigue on performance

Accid Anal Prev. 2001 May;33(3):313-26. doi: 10.1016/s0001-4575(00)00045-2.


The effects of 28 h of sleep deprivation were compared with varying doses of alcohol up to 0.1% blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in the same subjects. The study was conducted in the laboratory. Twenty long-haul truck drivers and 19 people not employed as professional drivers acted as subjects. Tests were selected that were likely to be affected by fatigue, including simple reaction time, unstable tracking, dual task, Mackworth clock vigilance test, symbol digit coding, visual search, sequential spatial memory and logical reasoning. While performance effects were seen due to alcohol for all tests, sleep deprivation affected performance on most tests, but had no effect on performance on the visual search and logical reasoning tests. Some tests showed evidence of a circadian rhythm effect on performance, in particular, simple reaction time, dual task, Mackworth clock vigilance, and symbol digit coding, but only for response speed and not response accuracy. Drivers were slower but more accurate than controls on the symbol digit test, suggesting that they took a more conservative approach to performance of this test. This study demonstrated which tests are most sensitive to sleep deprivation and fatigue. The study therefore has established a set of tests that can be used in evaluations of fatigue and fatigue countermeasures.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / prevention & control*
  • Alcoholic Intoxication
  • Cognition
  • Fatigue / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Logic
  • Male
  • Memory
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Reaction Time
  • Sleep Deprivation / physiopathology*
  • Visual Perception