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May 27, 1988

Shifting Work, Sleep Cycles Are on the Way to Becoming Another Public Health Issue

JAMA. 1988;259(20):2958-2959. doi:10.1001/jama.1988.03720200002002

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GETTING A LITTLE SHUT-EYE used to be no more than a personal concern. Now it's becoming a public health issue.

One of four American workers is engaged in shift work, according to a 1977 study from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. The effects of this phenomenon now are at issue among police officers and power plant workers alike, in industries as diverse as medicine and manufacturing.

Experts in sleep research hope that concrete changes in work schedules will be made, enabling workers to function in good health. Their concerns were outlined in a recent report warning of threats to public safety if policymakers ignore the impact of shift work (Sleep 1988;1:101-109). And a recently completed first-of-its-kind study indicates that such changes can benefit both workers and employers.

Investigators acknowledge that it will be difficult to implement changes without a clear-cut mandate and considerable agreement between labor and