Sleep loss is one of the most common causes of accidents and errors in operational environments. Currently, no single method satisfies all of the requisite criteria of an effective system for assessing the risk of injury prior to safety being compromised. Research has concentrated towards the development of a biomarker for individualized assessment of sleepiness-related deficits in neurobehavioral alertness, with salivary alpha-amylase (sAA) recently reported as a potential biomarker during acute total sleep deprivation. The present study extends on previous research by investigating the association between sAA and neurobehavioral alertness during simulated night-shift work, during individuals are required to work at night when biological processes are strongly promoting sleep and sleep during the day when endogenous processes are promoting wakefulness. In a laboratory-controlled environment, 10 healthy non-shift working males aged 24.7 ± 5.3 years (mean ± SD) underwent four consecutive nights of simulated night-shift work. Between 17:30-04:30 h participants provided saliva samples and completed a 3 min psychomotor vigilance test (PVT-B), 40 min simulated driving task, and 3 min digit symbol substitution test (DSST). Higher sAA levels were associated with faster response speed on the PVT-B, reduced lane variability on the simulated driving task, and improved information processing speed on the DSST during the first night-shift. There were no associations between sAA levels and performance outcomes during subsequent night-shifts. Findings indicate that the usability of sAA to assess the risk of neurobehavioral deficits during shift-work operations is limited. However, the robust circadian rhythm exhibited by sAA during the protocol of circadian misalignment suggests that sAA could serve as a potential circadian marker.
Keywords: Alertness; Alpha-amylase; Biomarker; Circadian; Saliva; Shift-work.
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