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Overtime work and its effects on sleep, sleepiness, cortisol and blood pressure in an experimental field study
2006 (English)In: Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, ISSN 0355-3140, E-ISSN 1795-990X, Vol. 32, no 4, 318-327 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Objectives Previous studies of long workhours and their effects on stress, sleep, and health show inconclusive results. This inconclusiveness may be partly due to methodological problems such as the use of between-group designs or comparisons before and after reorganizations. In addition, stress is usually a confounder. A within-person design was used to examine the effects of working 8- or 12-hour shifts in the absence of additional stress.

Methods In an experimental field study, 16 white-collar workers [9 women, mean age 45.9 (SD 15) years] undertook one workweek with normal workhours (8 hours) and 1 week of overtime with 4 extra hours of regular worktasks (12 hours). The participants wore actigraphs, rated sleepiness (Karolinska Sleepiness Scale) and stress throughout the day, and rated workload and how exhausted they felt. Saliva samples were collected on Mondays and Thursdays for cortisol analysis. On these days, ambulatory heart rate and blood pressure were also measured for 24 hours.

Results Overtime was associated with higher levels of exhaustion. Sleepiness showed a significant interaction between conditions, with higher levels at the end of the workweek featuring overtime. Total sleep time was shorter in the overtime week. There were no significant differences between ratings of stress and workload. Cortisol showed a circadian variation but no main effect of condition.

Conclusions One week of overtime work with a moderate workload produced no main effects on physiological stress markers. Nevertheless, sleep was negatively affected, with shorter sleeps during overtime work and greater problems with fatigue and sleepiness.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2006. Vol. 32, no 4, 318-327 p.
Keyword [en]
fatigue, stress, within-person design, workhours
National Category
Environmental Health and Occupational Health
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-86888DOI: 10.5271/sjweh.1016ISI: 000240093500009OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-86888DiVA: diva2:501124
Note
QC 20120305Available from: 2012-02-13 Created: 2012-02-13 Last updated: 2017-12-07Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Work stress and overtime work: effects on cortisol, sleep, sleepiness and health
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Work stress and overtime work: effects on cortisol, sleep, sleepiness and health
2006 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In Sweden the National Bureau of Statistics has reported an increase in stress-related disorders and sleep problems since the mid-1990’s. They also report that the number of hours of overtime worked has increased. Previous research on work-related stress and overtime work has demonstrated associations with altered physiological arousal, increased risk for stress related diseases, shorter sleep, greater fatigue and impaired performance. However, there is a lack of knowledge on the effects within individuals. The general aim of the thesis was to investigate the effect of overtime work and increased work stress on sleep, the diurnal pattern of cortisol, sleepiness and subjective stress in a within-subject design. In addition, it examined individual differences in the diurnal cortisol response to stress.

We used a combination of methods – questionnaires, sleep and wake diaries, objective measures of sleep, stress hormones (salivary cortisol) and ambulatory measures of heart rate and blood pressure. Studies followed office workers during two different conditions of (I) high/low work stress and (II) overtime work respectively. The individual differences in the cortisol response to stress from study I prompted study III. In this study we examined two groups that showed different cortisol responses to stress.

In conclusion, the results (I) demonstrated that a week with higher workload and stress affects physiological stress markers such as cortisol, and is associated with increased sleepiness and problems of unwinding at bedtime, shorter sleep duration and longer work hours. Furthermore (II) overtime work, under conditions of relatively low workload, was shown to be associated with modest effects on physiological markers of arousal. More pronounced effects were found on sleep and fatigue, with greater problems during overtime work. Study III indicated that individual differences in cortisol response to stress maybe related to fatigue and exhaustion.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm University, 2006. 112 p.
Keyword
work stress, overtime work, cortisol, sleep, sleepiness, fatigue, individual differences, within-subjects design, field study
National Category
Environmental Health and Occupational Health
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-86886 (URN)91-7155-374-9 (ISBN)
Note
QC 20120305Available from: 2012-02-13 Created: 2012-02-13 Last updated: 2012-03-05Bibliographically approved

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