PURPOSE: The study aimed to investigate the course and duration of neuroendocrine recovery after 2-week 12-h day and night shift working periods and to study whether there were differences in recovery between the shift groups. METHODS: Twenty-nine male offshore employees working 2-week 12-h shift tours participated in the study; 15 participated after a day shift tour and 14 after a night shift tour. Salivary cortisol was assessed at awakening, 30 min after awakening, and before bedtime on the 1st, 4th, 7th, and 11th day of the free period, with a reference day prior to the offshore tour. Differences were tested using generalised estimating equations analysis. RESULTS: Compared to the reference day, night shift workers had a significantly flatter cortisol profile on the 1st day off, significantly lower cortisol concentrations at 30 min after awakening on day 4 and at awakening on day 7, and a significantly smaller decline to evening concentration on days 4 and 11. Compared to the reference day, day shift workers only showed a significantly lower cortisol concentration at awakening on the 1st day off. Compared to day workers, night shift workers had a flatter profile on the 1st day off and a lower cortisol concentration at awakening on the 4th day. CONCLUSIONS: Following 2-week 12-h night shift working periods, recovery was not fully complete up to day 11. Following 2-week 12-h day shift working periods, an indication of incomplete recovery was found on the 1st day off, with full recovery reached on day 4.
International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, 2015, Vol 88, Issue 2, p. 247-257