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Transition to shift work: Sleep patterns, activity levels, and physiological health of early-career paramedics

      Abstract

      The physiological impact of transitioning from full-time study to work in occupations that involve high-stress environments and shift work may plausibly impact sleep patterns and quality. There are limited studies focusing on the transition to shift work in graduate paramedics. This study aimed to assess early metabolic markers of health, activity, and sleep quality during the first 5 months of rostered shift work in a cohort of 28 graduate paramedics. Participants were tested for 4-week blocks before starting shift work (baseline), and during their first and fifth month of shift work. In each block, sleep and activity levels were monitored 24 h/day (workdays and nonworking days) using a wrist-worn actigraph. During shift work, the number of sleep episodes increased by 16.7% (p = .02) and self-reporting of poor sleep quality increased by 35.4% (p = .05); however, overall sleep quantity and sleep efficiency did not differ. Sleep metrics recorded during nonwork days were not different to baseline with exception of reduced sleep duration recorded the night before returning to work (5.99 ± 1.66 hours Month 1; 5.72 ± 1.06 hours Month 5). Sedentary behavior increased by 4.8% across the study, attributable to a significant decline in light exercise (p = .05). No changes were recorded in vigorous physical activity, average steps recorded per day, fasting blood glucose levels, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, weight, or waist circumference. These results warrant further large-scale and longitudinal studies to gauge any physiological implications for ongoing paramedic health.

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