Circadian characteristics influencing interindividual differences in tolerance and adjustment to shiftwork

Ergonomics. 1989 Apr;32(4):373-85. doi: 10.1080/00140138908966104.


The study was carried out to evaluate whether shiftworkers showing different long-term tolerance to shiftwork differ in their circadian adjustments and/or in some behavioural characteristics. Three groups of eight workers, engaged on three shifts in a graphic plant and matched for age and work experience, were selected according to the presence or not of complaints related to shiftwork: (1) no complaints; (2) nervous complaints (anxiety/depression, severe sleep disturbances); (3) digestive disorders (gastroduodenitis, peptic ulcer). They answered questionnaires on family conditions, health status, rigidity of sleeping habits, ability to overcome drowsiness, morningness, manifest anxiety. They also recorded several physiological parameters (oral temperature, grip strength, peak expiratory flow rate, pulse rate, sleep hours) during day and night-shifts. The data obtained indicate that the characteristics of flexibility of sleeping habits, ability to overcome drowsiness, and lower manifest anxiety, are associated with better tolerance to shiftwork. These characteristics do not seem to influence the adjustment of the circadian rhythm of oral temperature passing from day to night-shifts and vice versa. Conversely, morningness appeared to be unrelated to long-term tolerance, but did influence circadian adjustments and sleep behaviour. Among the groups, the subjects with digestive disorders showed a greater phase shift and a reduction of the amplitude on night-work, suggesting a possible relationship also between the short-term circadian adjustment and the long-term tolerance to shiftwork, as pointed out by other authors.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Humans
  • Individuality*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / etiology
  • Work Schedule Tolerance*
  • Work*