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Distribution of rest days in 12 hour shift systems: impacts on health, wellbeing, and on shift alertness.
  1. P Tucker,
  2. L Smith,
  3. I Macdonald,
  4. S Folkard
  1. Department of Psychology, University of Wales, Swansea, UK.


    OBJECTIVES: To investigate of the effects of distribution of rest days in 12 hour shift systems. Although several studies have examined the effects of compressing work schedules by comparing 8 and 12 hour shift systems, there is little published research examining the various forms of 12 hour shift system. METHODS: An abridged version of the standard shiftwork index which included retrospective alertness ratings was completed by a large sample of industrial shiftworkers. The respondents worked 12 hour shift systems that either did or did not incorporate breaks of > 24 hours between the blocks of day and night shifts. For the purposes of the analysis, each of these two groups were further subdivided into those who started their morning shift at 0600 and those who started at 0700. RESULTS: Systems which incorporated rest days between the day and night shifts were associated with slightly higher levels of on shift alertness, slightly lower levels of chronic fatigue, along with longer sleep durations when working night shifts and between rest days. Early changeovers were associated with shorter night sleeps between successive day shifts, but longer and less disturbed day sleeps between night shifts. These effects of changeover time were broadly in agreement with previous research findings. CONCLUSIONS: The distribution of rest days in 12 hour shift systems had only limited effects on the outcome measures, although the few modest differences that were found favoured systems which incorporated rest days between the day and night shifts. It is conceded that the design of the study may have obscured some subtle differences between the shift systems. Nevertheless, it is concluded that the impact of distribution of rest days seems to be minor relative to previously found effects of other features of shift systems--for example, shift duration.

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