The objective of this study was to evaluate whether long-term shift work is associated with both the total hormonal secretion after awakening and the pattern of the cortisol levels during the first hour following awakening, among 65 randomly selected police officers who represent a high stress occupation. Dominant shift (Day, Afternoon, or Midnight) was ascertained using daily payroll records of each participant’s work activities during the 6–8 yrs prior to saliva sampling. Four salivary samples were collected at 15 min intervals upon first awakening. After accounting for potential confounders, salivary cortisol concentrations averaged across all four time points and total area under the curve differed significantly across shift with midnight shift workers showing suppressed awakening cortisol response relative to the afternoon and day shift. The percent of hours worked on midnight shift was inversely correlated with total awakening cortisol output. In contrast, the pattern of cortisol secretion during the first hour following waking appeared not to be affected as no significant interaction effect was found between time since awakening and shift work. The results show that long-term midnight shift work is associated with decreased absolute mean level and total volume of cortisol released over the waking period.
2012 by National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health