Healthcare Research

Sleep made better for shift workers with world-first guidelines


Groundbreaking research conducted by CQUniversity has brought together an international team of sleep and shift work experts to develop world-first guidelines to optimise sleep patterns for shift workers.

Published in the esteemed academic journal SLEEP, the study presents 18 clear recommendations to ensure healthy sleep for shift workers, whether on permanent night shifts or rotating rosters.

The guidelines offer promising prospects for more than two million shift workers in Australia and hundreds of millions worldwide who work outside the traditional 9-5 schedule and struggle to establish regular sleep patterns.

Lead author and CQUniversity PhD candidate Alexandra Shriane emphasised the need for tailored advice for shift workers, as standard sleep recommendations were impractical and frustrating for those with non-standard sleep/wake patterns.

Previous research has consistently shown that shift workers tend to get less quality sleep, with many averaging less than six hours a day.

The guidelines, titled “Healthy Sleep Practices for Shift Workers,” include research-based insights, such as developing a sleep schedule tailored to one’s roster, leveraging light exposure and managing transitions between work and days off. Napping is also highlighted as a helpful tool, with specific advice on the ideal nap duration.

The study acknowledges that shift workers need flexibility in their schedules and lifestyles, and the guidelines are designed to accommodate various industries and work demands. The strategies presented are based on robust scientific evidence and have the potential to improve sleep quality, overall health and well-being for shift workers.

With an estimated 16 per cent of the Australian workforce engaging in shift work, CQUniversity’s guidelines aim to address significant evidence linking shiftwork with health issues, work errors and lower job satisfaction. The research team hopes that future studies will explore how workers apply these guidelines and their actual impact on sleep, health and well-being.

The study was co-authored by a team of sleep and shift work experts, including Dr Gabrielle Rigney, Professor Sally Ferguson, Dr Yu Sun Bin and Dr Grace Vincent. CQUniversity’s Appleton Institute, a renowned sleep research facility in Adelaide, South Australia, spearheaded the groundbreaking research, contributing valuable insights to health and well-being research in diverse work environments.


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