A new study of night shift workers reveals that overnight occupational and cognitive impairment is more strongly correlated to insomnia than it is to sleepiness.

Results show that night shift workers classified as alert insomniacs had the highest level of impairment in work productivity and cognitive function, which was significantly worse than controls. This occupational impairment was more severe in alert insomniacs than in insomniacs with excessive sleepiness. The study also found that alert insomniacs reported significantly greater fatigue than sleepy insomniacs, which emphasizes the clinical importance of distinguishing between fatigue and sleepiness.

“Our findings are important to everyone who is dealing with night shift work,” said principal investigator Valentina Gumenyuk, PhD, who is currently director of the MEG Neuroimaging Center at Meadowlands Hospital in Secaucus, New Jersey. “Our study reaffirms that insomnia within shift work disorder demands clinical attention, and it suggests that treatments focusing on the relief of excessive sleepiness in shift work disorder may not sufficiently improve work-related outcomes.”

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