Volume 4

Working the Night Shift: Its Effects on the Mind and Body

Vicki Milligan & Andrea Miller

Studies have shown that work-related fatigue often negatively impacts night-shift workers’ health, feelings of stress, their social relationships, and cognitive processes. This study was designed to compare day- and night- shift workers’ perceptions of their experiences and their performance on simple memory tasks. Participants (n = 120), half of whom worked the "grave-yard" shift, were asked to complete a series of self-rating scales, followed by four memory tasks. Results showed that across nearly all measures, night-shift employees rated themselves more negatively than day-shift workers. Specifically, night-shift employees’ scores indicated high levels of physical stress symptoms and daily stress, loneliness and depression, and low self-esteem. These workers also preformed more slowly and less accurately on the memory tasks than day-workers. Concerns for the risks these employees’ faces, as well as risks potentially faced by those left in their charges, are discussed.

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