The influence of shift work on cognitive functions and oxidative stress

Psychiatry Res. 2013 Dec 30;210(3):1219-25. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2013.09.022. Epub 2013 Oct 7.


Shift work influences health, performance, activity, and social relationships, and it causes impairment in cognitive functions. In this study, we investigated the effects of shift work on participants' cognitive functions in terms of memory, attention, and learning, and we measured the effects on oxidative stress. Additionally, we investigated whether there were significant relationships between cognitive functions and whole blood oxidant/antioxidant status of participants. A total of 90 health care workers participated in the study, of whom 45 subjects were night-shift workers. Neuropsychological tests were administered to the participants to assess cognitive function, and blood samples were taken to detect total antioxidant capacity and total oxidant status at 08:00. Differences in anxiety, depression, and chronotype characteristics between shift work groups were not significant. Shift workers achieved significantly lower scores on verbal memory, attention-concentration, and the digit span forward sub-scales of the Wechsler Memory Scale-Revised (WMS-R), as well as on the immediate memory and total learning sub-scales of the Auditory Verbal Learning Test (AVLT). Oxidative stress parameters were significantly associated with some types of cognitive function, including attention-concentration, recognition, and long-term memory. These findings suggest that night shift work may result in significantly poorer cognitive performance, particularly working memory.

Keywords: Antioxidants; Chronobiology; Cognitive performance; Night shift; Psychopathology; Sleep deprivation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / complications
  • Attention*
  • Chronobiology Disorders / blood
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Depression / complications
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Sleep Deprivation / blood
  • Sleep Deprivation / physiopathology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Verbal Learning
  • Work Schedule Tolerance*