Shiftwork duration and the awakening cortisol response among police officers
Police officers are required to work irregular hours, which induces stress, fatigue, and sleep disruption, and they have higher rates of chronic disease and mortality. Cortisol is a well-known "stress hormone" produced via activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. An abnormal secretion pattern has been associated with immune system dysregulation and may serve as an early indicator of disease risk. This study examined the effects of long-and short-term shiftwork on the cortisol awakening response among officers (n = 68) in the Buffalo Cardio-Metabolic Occupational Police Stress (BCOPS) pilot study (20012003). The time each officer spent on day (start time: 04:0011:59 h), afternoon (12:0019:59 h), or night (20:0003:59 h) shifts was summarized from 1994 to examination date to characterize long-term (mean: 14 ± 9 yrs) and short-term (3, 5, 7, or 14 days prior to participation) shiftwork exposures. The cortisol awakening response was characterized by summarizing the area under the curve (AUC) for samples collected on first awakening, and at 15-, 30-, and 45-min intervals after waking. Data were collected on a scheduled training or off day. The cortisol AUC with respect to ground (AUCG) summarized total cortisol output after waking, and the cortisol AUC with respect to increase (AUCI) characterized the waking cortisol response. Officers also completed the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale. Waking cortisol AUC values were lower among officers working short-term night or afternoon shifts than day shifts, with maximal differences occurring after 5 days of shiftwork. The duration of long-term shiftwork was not associated with the cortisol awakening response, although values were attenuated among officers with more career shift changes. © Informa Healthcare USA, Inc.
Wirth, M., Burch, J., Violanti, J., Burchfiel, C., Fekedulegn, D., Andrew, M., Zhang, H., Miller, D., Hébert, J., & Vena, J. (2011). Shiftwork duration and the awakening cortisol response among police officers. Chronobiology International, 28 (5), 446-457. https://doi.org/10.3109/07420528.2011.573112