OBJECTIVES: Irregular working hours severely disturb sleep and wakefulness. This paper presents a modification of the quantitative (computerised) three process model of regulation of alertness to predict duration of sleep in connection with irregular sleep patterns. METHODS: The model uses a circadian "C" (sinusoidal) and homeostatic "S" (exponential) component (the duration of previous periods awake and asleep), which are summed to yield predicted alertness (on a scale of 1-16). It assumes that waking from sleep will occur at a given alertness level (S' + C') when recuperation is complete. Variables of electroencephalographic duration of sleep from two studies of irregular sleep were used to model the S and C variables in a regression approach to maximise prediction. The model performance was cross validated against published field and laboratory data. RESULTS: The model parameters were defined with a high degree of precision R2 = 0.99 and the validation yielded similar values R2 = 0.98-0.95, depending on the acrophase. The paper also describes a simplified graphical version of the computation model seen as a two dimensional duration of sleep nomogram. CONCLUSION: The model seems to predict group means for duration of sleep with high precision and may serve as a tool for evaluating work and rest schedules to reduce risks of sleep disturbances.
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