Shift work, an essential part of our 24/7 society, inevitably leads to displacement of the habitual sleep period and thereby to misalignment of the internal circadian timing system with the rest-activity cycle and the environment. How interindividual differences in circadian organization affect sleep duration and timing during rotating shift work is not fully understood. The objective of this study was to assess the effect of chronotype, shift type, and their interaction on actigraphy-based sleep behavior in 74 police officers (20 women and 54 men; age [mean ± SD]: 32.1 ± 5.4 years) involved in rotating shift work throughout a 28- to 35-day work cycle consisting of morning, evening, and night shifts. Using linear mixed modeling, we found that chronotype was associated with sleep duration depending on the shift type: increasing morningness was correlated with longer sleep duration during series of consecutive morning shifts, while increasing eveningness was correlated with longer sleep duration during series of evening shifts. During series of night shifts, increasing eveningness was associated with a longer duration of the main sleep episode, but this relationship was attenuated and no longer significant when naps were taken into account due to increased napping in morning chronotypes during series of night shifts. Providing a detailed within-subject characterization of sleep behavior across a complete work cycle consisting of morning, evening, and night shifts, this study advances the understanding of the relationship between chronotype and sleep in rotating shift workers and supports the implementation of work schedules that take into account chronobiological principles.
Keywords: actigraphy; ambulatory monitoring; chronobiology; circadian rhythms; napping; occupational health; shift work schedule; sleep.
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