Shift Work, Light, Sleep and Performance

  • Wout van Bommel


More than 15% of the working force works in shift work. Shift work often leads to a mismatch of the body circadian rhythm and the work-sleep rhythm. The phase shift and thus misalignment between the body circadian rhythm and the work-sleep rhythm have adverse effects on the health of the shift worker. It also affects sleep, alertness and performance adversely. Specifically designed shift work lighting can help reduce these problems. The night shift is considered to be the most disruptive one, and therefore this chapter concentrates on night work.

Depending on the duration, timing and rotating frequency of shifts and of the risk of work, the objective of shift work lighting is different. For permanent night-shift work and slow-rotating shifts, the goal should be a complete resetting of the circadian rhythm. For fast-rotating shifts, with changeover periods of some 3–7 days, usually partial or compromise phase shifting offers an adequate possibility that also allows the shift worker to have a relatively normal social life. The circadian rhythm of workers in single-night shifts or very-rapid-rotating shifts should preferably not be phase shifted. These objectives can only be obtained with different lighting schedules. Recent research results are available as a basis for such schedules. Some lighting schedules use bright white light of gradually changing colour temperature; others use intermittent very bright light pulses of relatively short duration and again others, light of which the short wavelengths are filtered (short-wavelength depleted white light).


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wout van Bommel
    • 1
  1. 1.Van Bommel Lighting ConsultantNuenenThe Netherlands

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