The relation of shift work tolerance to the circadian adjustment

Chronobiol Int. 1992;9(1):46-54. doi: 10.3109/07420529209064515.


The amplitude and phasing of circadian rhythms are under discussion as possible predictors of tolerance to night work. In a field study, subjective sleepiness and oral temperature of 147 female nurses were measured at 2-hour intervals during a period with one morning shift and two consecutive night shifts. The nurses also filled out a questionnaire. Two types of tolerance indices were constructed: The "health index" was based on questions referring to general fatigue, gastrointestinal symptoms, and sleep disturbances, and the "sleepiness index" on the actual subjective ratings of sleepiness. According to the health index, the group with good tolerance had a larger circadian amplitude of the oral temperature rhythm on the day of the morning shift than the group with poor tolerance. However, with regard to the sleepiness index, the corresponding difference between the groups with good or poor tolerance was not significant. The data did not confirm the hypothesis that predicts a quick adjustment of the circadian rhythm when the circadian amplitude is small before the change to night work. The contradictory results found in this and in other studies do not yet permit prediction of tolerance to night work.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Temperature*
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Nurses*
  • Wakefulness
  • Work Schedule Tolerance*