The impact of a one-hour self-selected nap opportunity on physiological and performance variables during a simulated night shift

Davy, Jonathan Patrick (2010) The impact of a one-hour self-selected nap opportunity on physiological and performance variables during a simulated night shift. Masters thesis, Rhodes University.




Napping has been explored extensively as a means of counteracting the negative effects associated with shift work. A significant amount of this research has focused on the implementation of scheduled naps, with few studies considering flexible nap schemes. The current study therefore aimed to assess the effects of a flexible nap opportunity on the physiological, cognitive, performance, neurophysiological and subjective responses of a group of non shift workers over the course of a three-day simulated night shift regime. Additional foci were the effects of the nap condition on the extent of the circadian adaptation of the subjects to the irregular work schedule and the circadian-related influences associated with being awake during the night. 36 subjects – 18 males and 18 females – were recruited to participate in the current study. The data collection spanned twelve days, during which four, three-day long shift cycles were set up: three night shift cycles and one day shift cycle. During each night shift cycle, three separate experimental conditions were staggered, namely the nap condition, the no nap condition and a booster break condition (a collaborative study that completed the setup). The day shift served as a further comparison. Each cycle comprised of 12 subjects, which meant there were four subjects per condition during each cycle. The shifts were 8 hours in duration, with the no nap group following a standard break schedule evinced in industry. The three breaks taken during the shifts amounted to a total time of 1 hour. The nap group was afforded a 1 hour flexible nap opportunity between 00h00 and 03h00 with no other breaks. Therefore, both conditions had the same amount of work time. During the shifts, subjects performed two simple, low arousal tasks (beading and packing) and completed a test battery roughly every two hours which was comprised of physiological, performance, neurophysiological and subjective measures. It was found that the inclusion of the nap opportunity significantly improved output performance and response time during a low precision, modified Fitts tapping task over the course of three night shifts, relative to no napping. Physiologically, napping resulted in higher heart rate frequency measures by the end of the shifts, which were also accompanied by significant reductions in subjective sleepiness ratings during all the night shifts. The nap group’s responses in this case, did not differ ignificantly from those of the day shift. Both simple reaction time and memory performances improved as a result of the nap inclusion, but only during the third night shift. The majority of the measures included in the research also depicted the effects of the circadian rhythm, which was indicative of the pronounced effect that this natural biological down regulation has on performance during the night. Napping reduced the severity of these effects during beading performance and measures of subjective sleepiness. With regard to habituation, the nap opportunity also resulted in positive changes in the responses of beading performance, high precision response time, simple reaction time and both subjective sleepiness measures, relative to no napping. Sleep diary responses indicated that although sleep length and quality during the day were significantly reduced for both night-time conditions, recovery sleep (length and quality) for the nap group did not differ significantly from the no nap group. The findings of this research indicate that the inclusion of a flexible napping opportunity during the night shift had positive effects on some physiological, performance and subjective responses, and that this intervention is as beneficial as scheduled napping. Specifically, napping resulted in a significantly higher output during the beading task, relative to the no nap group despite the duration of work time being the same. As such the introduction of a flexible, self-selected nap opportunity is a practical, effective and individual-specific means of alleviating the negative effects of shift work, while improving certain performance parameters. Therefore, industries should consider its inclusion in their fatigue management programs. However, contextspecific considerations must be made, with regard work scheduling, individual differences and task demands when implementing such an intervention. This will ensure that its introduction will be well received and in time, lessen the health and work-related decrements associated with shift work.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Naps, Napping, Night work, Shift work
Subjects:T Technology > TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General) > Human engineering (Ergonomics)
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Science > Human Kinetics & Ergonomics
ID Code:2549
Deposited By: Mrs Carol Perold
Deposited On:03 Apr 2012 07:13
Last Modified:03 Apr 2012 07:13
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