This study was to evaluate whether sleep-related autonomic function in nurses recovers during their days off following a rapidly rotating, clockwise shift schedule. Ten rotating-shift nurses and ten regular morning-shift nurses were included. Nurses slept at home and were allowed to sleep and wake spontaneously. For the rotating-shift workers, ambulatory polysomnographic recordings were taken during nighttime sleep (after the second morning shift, afternoon shift, and on days off) and during daytime sleep (after the second night shift). No significant differences were found between regular-shift nurses and rotating-shift nurses in terms of sleep patterns and cardiac autonomic functions during day shift. When comparing sleep patterns within shift groups, the total sleep time of night shift was lower than their other shifts. Controlling for the variable of total sleep time allowed us to compare cardiac autonomic functions following different shifts (for the rotating shift nurses). During the non-rapid eye movement and rapid eye movement periods, the high frequency (HF) value on rotating shift nurses' days off was found to be significantly higher than their other shifts. However, the low to high frequency ratio (LF/HF) on days off was found to be obviously lower than that during shift work. Two consecutive days off may be sufficient for nurses to recover sleep-related autonomic functions after a rapidly rotating, clockwise three-shift schedule. Sleeprelated autonomic functions may be improved during days off to minimize health risks.
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