Shiftwork experience, age and cognitive performance

Ergonomics. 2005 Aug 15;48(10):1282-93. doi: 10.1080/00140130500241670.


Changes of alertness and cognitive efficiency has been suggested in people whose circadian rhythms are disrupted, e.g. night or shift-workers. Data from field and laboratory studies have demonstrated short-term cognitive disturbances related to circadian rhythm disruption. By contrast, little is known about the long-term consequences of chronic sleep deprivation, as can be observed with shift-work, on cognitive abilities. The present paper is aimed at evaluating, on a large cross-sectional sample of workers, the long-term influence of shift-work on verbal memory and speed performances. Participants were 3,237 workers aged 32, 42, 52, and 62 years of various occupational statuses included in the VISAT (Aging, Health and Work) cohort. Data collected by questionnaires included items on working hours and shift-work and sleep disorders. Cognitive abilities were assessed using neuropsychological tests. Current male shift-workers had lower cognitive performance than never exposed workers. In the same population, memory performance tended to decrease with increasing shift-work duration. Among former shift-workers, the cognitive performance of the participant having stopped shiftwork more than 4 years ago seemed to be increased, suggesting a possible reversibility of effects. In conclusion, this study demonstrated that cognitive functioning tends to be impaired by a long-term exposure to SW. As found by other authors, neuropsychological performance tends to decrease with the increases in the duration of exposure to SW.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors*
  • Cognition*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • France
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sleep Deprivation / physiopathology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • United States
  • Work Schedule Tolerance / psychology*