Risk-taking and circadian misalignment in night shift workers

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Conference Proceeding

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Sleep Science


Introduction: Circadian misalignment is of particular concern for shift workers as it impacts cognitive performance, such as decision making and risk-taking. Research in non-shift workers have demonstrated that sleep loss can lead to increased appetitive and risk-taking behaviors; however, fewer studies have examined this in night shift workers despite the high prevalence of excessive sleepiness and sleep disruption. This study examined the relationship between risk-taking behavior and circadian misalignment in a sample of permanent night shift workers. Methods: Thirty permanent night shift workers participated in a larger study examining the health consequences of circadian misalignment. Circadian phase was evaluated using dim-light salivary melatonin onset (DLMO). Risk-taking behavior was evaluated using a computerized Stop-Light paradigm, which was completed at 7am. This paradigm mimics the context of a traffc light, where a go/no-go decision must be made at onset of the yellow light. Successful go trials were rewarded with 25 points, and a percentage of unsuccessful trials were punished with loss of 25 points. Results: Results revealed that workers with greater circadian misalignment earned less total points (r=.46, p<.05). While participants were more conservative on higher risk trials, this effect was not moderated by degree of circadian misalignment. However, risk-taking behavior did decrease with sleepiness prior to the task (r=-.51, p<.01), perhaps due to increased risk aversion or decreased appetitive drive. Finally, workers with better circadian alignment achieved higher success rates on go trials (r=.42, p<.05), suggesting that circadian alignment is associated with improved ability for decision making in the context of risk. Discussion: Results indicate that greater circadian alignment in shift work may be associated with improved performance in decisions involving risk. This offers further insight into the cognitive vulnerabilities related to circadian misalignment that may impact risk for errors, accidents, and injuries in night shift workers.





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