The major objective of this project was to assess the differences, if any, which exist between continuous shiftworkers and dayworkers who work in a similar environment (in this case, the Chemical Process Industries).
Two basic aspects of any lifestyle; eating strategy and sleeping strategy, were targeted as being readily quantifiable, relatively objective variables which could be measured.
A three page survey questionnaire was designed and distributed to 107 shiftworkers and 112 dayworkers. The survey asked for demographic data, meal time data, and sleep data. Sixty-one shiftwork replies and forty daywork replies were received.
No major demographic differences were noted, apart from the proportion of shiftworkers who are divorced or separated (4.9%), which was nearly twice that for dayworkers .(2.5%). Some other differences occurred in the countries of origin for migrant shiftworkers versus migrant dayworkers.
The vast majority of dayworkers stick to set mealtimes, while the majority of shiftworkers change their mealtimes to suit the particular shift that they are working.
Shiftworkers who are working day shift average a similar number of hours sleep per night as dayworkers do, and experience similar difficulty getting to sleep, and a similar number of sleep disturbances. 'Shiftworkers working afternoon shift average a lesser amount of sleep than do dayworkers, and have greater difficulty getting to sleep and a greater frequency of sleep disturbances. Shiftworkers on night shift average the least amount of sleep and experience the greatest difficulty getting to sleep, and the greatest frequency of sleep disturbances.
Additional written replies on the surveys uncovered a picture of poor, interrupted sleep in several short, unsatisfying periods per day, with workers feeling cranky, lethargic and washed-out. Some workers experience eating problems and digestive disorders during night shift.
Shiftworkers trying to sleep during the day tend to be disturbed by a number of daytime noises and sources of sleep interruption that do not affect dayworkers.
More-experienced shiftworkers tend to sleep less hours than less-experienced ones, particularly when working night shift. However, they experience similar difficulty getting to sleep, and similar numbers of sleep disturbances.
Most shiftworkers who took part in the survey did not consider that enough information was asked for to enable a researcher to get a complete picture of their lifestyle. The majority however welcomed the opportunity to give their views.