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The Differential Effects of Regular Shift Work and Obstructive Sleep Apnea on Sleepiness, Mood and Neurocognitive Function

16 Jun 2018

Study Objectives:

To assess whether poor sleep quality experienced by regular shift workers and individuals with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affects neurobehavioral function similarly, or whether the different etiologies have distinct patterns of impairment.


Thirty-seven shift workers (> 24 hours after their last shift), 36 untreated patients with OSA, and 39 healthy controls underwent assessment of sleepiness (Epworth Sleepiness Scale [ESS]), mood (Beck Depression Index, State Trait Anxiety Inventory [STAI], Profile of Mood States), vigilance (Psychomotor Vigilance Task [PVT], Oxford Sleep Resistance Test [OSLER], driving simulation), neurocognitive function (Logical Memory, Trails Making Task, Digit Span Task, Victoria Stroop Test) and polysomnography.


Sleepiness (ESS score; median, interquartile range) did not differ between the OSA (10.5, 6.3–14) and shift work (7, 5–11.5) groups, but both had significantly elevated scores relative to the control group (5, 3–6). State anxiety (STAI-S) was the only mood variable that differed significantly between the OSA (35, 29–43) and shift work (30, 24–33.5) groups, however both demonstrated several mood deficits relative to the control group. The shift work and control groups performed similarly on neurobehavioral tasks (simulated driving, PVT, OSLER and neurocognitive tests), whereas the OSA group performed worse. On the PVT, lapses were significantly greater for the OSA group (3, 2–6) than both the shift work (2, 0–3.5) and control (1, 0–4) groups.


Shift workers and patients with OSA had similar sleepiness and mood deficits relative to healthy individuals. However, only the patients with OSA showed deficits on vigilance and neurocognitive function relative to healthy individuals. These findings suggest that distinct causes of sleep disturbance likely result in different patterns of neurobehavioral dysfunction.


Cori JM, Jackson ML, Barnes M, Westlake J, Emerson P, Lee J, Galante R, Hayley A, Wilsmore N, Kennedy GA, Howard M. The differential effects of regular shift work and obstructive sleep apnea on sleepiness, mood and neurocognitive function. J Clin Sleep Med. 2018;14(6):941–951.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine

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