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Original scientific paper

Age and Individual Sleep Characteristics Affect Cognitive Performance in Anesthesiology Residents after a 24-Hour Shift

Meri Tadinac orcid id
Sekulić Ante
Hromatko Ivana
Mazul-Sunko Branka
Ivančić Romina

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Previous research has shown that both shift work and sleep deprivation have an adverse influence on various aspects of human cognitive performance. The aim of this study was to explore changes in cognitive functioning and subjective sleepiness of anesthesiology residents after a 24-hour shift. Twenty-six anesthesiology residents completed a set of psychological instruments at the beginning and at the end of the shift, as well as a questionnaire regarding information about the shift, Stanford Sleepiness Scale, and Circadian Type Questionnaire. There was a significant decline in cognitive performance measured by the Auditory Verbal Learning Test after the shift. The effect was stronger in older participants and in those with high scores on rigidity of sleep scale and low scores on the ability to overcome sleepiness scale. There were no differences in the digits forward test (a measure of concentration), while digits backward test (a measure of working memory) even showed an improved performance after the shift. Although participants reported being significantly sleepier after the shift, the subjective sleepiness did not correlate with any of the objective measures of cognitive performance. In conclusion, the performance in short tasks involving concentration and working memory was not impaired, while performance in long-term and monotone tasks declined after sleep deprivation, and the magnitude of this decline depended on the specific individual characteristicsof sleep and on age. Surprisingly, age seemed to have an important impact on cognitive functions after shift work even in the relatively age-homogeneous population of young anesthesiology residents.


Work schedule tolerance; Internship and residency; Anesthesiology; Cognition; Memory; Verbal learning; Sleep deprivation; Stress, psychological; Burnout, professional

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