The objective of this research was to evaluate the effect of working consecutive night shifts on sleep time, prior wakefulness, perceived levels of fatigue and psychomotor performance in a group of Australian emergency registrars. A prospective observational study with a repeated within-subjects component was conducted. Sleep time was determined using sleep diaries and activity monitors. Subjective fatigue levels and reciprocal reaction times were evaluated before and after day and night shifts.
A total of 11 registrars participated in the study with 120 shifts analysed. Sleep time was found to be similar during consecutive night and day shifts. The mean number of hours spent awake before the end of a night shift was 14.33.
The research team found that registrars sleep a similar amount of time surrounding night and day shifts. Despite reporting the highest levels of fatigue at the end of a night shift, there was no significant difference in reaction times at the end of night shift compared with the beginning of day shift. This correlates with the finding that at the end of night shift the registrars have been awake for less than 16 h, which is the point at which psychomotor performance is expected to decline.
Haire, J. C. L., Ferguson, S. A., Tilleard, J. D., Negus, P., Dorrian, J. and Thomas, M. J. (2012), Effect of working consecutive night shifts on sleep time, prior wakefulness, perceived levels of fatigue and performance on a psychometric test in emergency registrars. Emergency Medicine Australasia, 24: 251–259. doi:10.1111/j.1742-6723.2012.01533.x
Haire J, Tilleard J, Negus P. The effect of consecutive night shifts on the psychomotor performance of registrars working in the emergency department. Evidence Review in Emergency Medicine, Terrigal, February 2010