Sleep deprivation due to shift work

Handb Clin Neurol. 2015:131:437-46. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-62627-1.00023-8.


Sleep deprivation due to shift work is related to perturbation of the sleep/wake cycle, associated with the modified activity/rest pattern. This may cause a significant disruption of circadian rhythms of biologic functions, driven by the body clock located in the suprachiasmatic nuclei of the hypothalamus. Shift and night workers have to change sleep times and strategies according to their duty periods; consequently, both sleep length and quality can be considerably affected depending on the variable start and finish times on different shifts. About 10% of night and rotating shift workers, aged between 18 and 65 years, have been estimated to have a diagnosable "shift-work sleep disorder," according to the International Classification of Sleep Disorders, version 2 (ICSD-2). In the long run, this may lead to persistent and severe disturbances of sleep, chronic fatigue and psychoneurotic syndromes, besides being a risk or aggravating factor for accidents, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and reproductive disorders, as well as, probably, for cancer. Preventive and corrective actions deal with the organization of shift schedules according to ergonomic criteria, careful health surveillance, appropriate education and training on effective countermeasures, in particular, sleep hygiene and napping.

Keywords: cancer; circadian rhythms; interindividual differences; napping; night work; organization of shift schedules; shift work; sleep/wake cycle; tolerance to shift work.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Humans
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling
  • Sleep Deprivation / etiology*
  • Work Schedule Tolerance*