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Effect of working consecutive night shifts on sleep time, prior wakefulness, perceived levels of fatigue and performance on a psychometric test in emergency registrars

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 18:15 authored by Haire, JCL, Ferguson, SA, Tilleard, JD, Negus, P, Dorrian, J, Thomas, MJW

Objective: 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.

Methods: 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.

Results: 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. Subjective fatigue scores were worst at the end of a night shift. There was no difference in reciprocal reaction time between the end of night shift and the start of day shift.

Conclusions: 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 is 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 16h, which is the point at which psychomotor performance is expected to decline.


Publication title

EMA - Emergency Medicine Australasia








Tasmanian School of Medicine


Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Asia

Place of publication


Rights statement

Copyright 2012 The Authors EMA Copyright 2012 Australasian College for Emergency Medicine and Australasian Society for Emergency Medicine

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Socio-economic Objectives

Occupational health

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