The Effects of Napping on Night Shift Performance: Final Report
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The Effects of Napping on Night Shift Performance: Final Report

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  • English

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      This study represents a collaborative effort between the Federal Aviation Administration’s Civil Aeromedical Institute and the US Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory to investigate the effects of napping on the midnight shift as a potential countermeasure to sleepiness during the shift. The purpose of the present paper was to examine the patterns of performance degradation along with the subjective measures of mood, sleep quality, and sleepiness as a function of napping condition and time on task during the midnight shift. Sixty Air Traffic Control Specialists (ATCSs) were randomly assigned to one of the three midnight shift napping conditions: a long nap (LN) of 2 hours, a short nap (SN) of 45 minutes, and a no nap condition (NN). ATCSs completed a four-day protocol during which they worked three early morning shifts (0700-1500) followed by a rapid rotation to the midnight shift (2300-0700). Subjects completed three 1.5 hour test sessions (one session before the nap and 2 sessions after the nap) during the midnight shift involving two computer-based tasks: 1) the Air Traffic Scenarios Test (ATST), a task developed for selection of ATCSs, and 2) the Bakan, a test of vigilance. Data were analyzed using repeated measures analysis of variance and post-hoc multiple comparisons. Both cognitive performance and subjective measures of sleepiness supported the use of naps during the midnight shift. In fact, both the long nap of 2 hours and the short nap of 45 minutes resulted in better performance than no nap on the Bakan test at the end of the midnight shift. A dose-response relationship existed such that the long nap also resulted in better performance than the short nap. The ATST, on the other hand, was much less sensitive to differences in napping condition and even to the natural circadian trough, which would have been expected to affect all groups. Sleepiness ratings on the Stanford Sleepiness Scale suggested that, while sleepiness increased across the midnight shift for all groups, ratings were generally lower for the LN condition and were lower for males in the SN condition, when compared with the NN condition. The present study suggests that naps taken during the midnight shift could be useful as a countermeasure to performance decrement and sleepiness on the midnight shift.
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