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Measuring and identifying large-study metrics for circadian rhythm disruption in female flight attendants.

Grajewski B; Nguyen M; Whelan EA; Cole RJ; Hein MJ
Scand J Work Environ Health 2003 Oct; 29(5):337-346
Flight attendants can experience circadian rhythm disruption due to travel through multiple time zones. The objectives of this study were to determine whether flight attendants are more likely than teachers (comparison group) to experience circadian disruption, as measured by melatonin production, and to identify metrics of circadian disruption for epidemiologic studies of reproductive health in which biomonitoring is infeasible. Each day, for one menstrual cycle, 45 flight attendants and 26 teachers kept a daily diary, collected and measured their overnight urine, and wore an activity monitor to assess sleep displacement. The relation between melatonin production and flight attendant and teacher status was analyzed with linear and multiple logistic regression. The relation between sleep displacement, melatonin, and flight-history-derived variables (including time zones crossed) were examined with exploratory factor analyses. Flight attendants experience increased circadian disruption, as measured by a highter adjusted melatonin rate variance, than teachers [2.8 x 10(5) versus 1.0 x 10(5) (ng/hour)(2), respectively; P=0.04] and are more likely to be in the highest quartile of melatonin variance (odds ratio 2.3; 95% confidence interval 0.6-9.1). In the factor analysis, the number of time zones crossed was related to both melatonin desynchronization and sleep displacement. Flight attendants experience increased circadian disruption, as measured by more variable melatonin rates, than a minimally flying comparison group. For epidemiologic studies of flight crews in which melatonin measurement is infeasible, the number of time zones crossed is a useful indicator of both sleep displacement and melatonin desynchronization.
Circadian rhythms; Flight personnel; Aircrews; Biological rhythms; Women; Work environment; Reproductive system; Reproductive system disorders; Sleep deprivation; Sleep disorders; Hormone activity; Hormones; Body mechanics; Aerospace medicine; Aerospace environment; Author Keywords: aerospace medicine; circadian rhythm; jet lag syndrome; melatonin; sleep disorders; circadian rhythm; work schedule tolerance
Dr Barbara Grajewski, NIOSH (R-13), 4676 Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45226, USA
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Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health
Page last reviewed: June 15, 2021
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division