A Cup of Coffee Can Help Shift Workers Improve Performance, Cut Down on Errors

Researchers report that shift workers with bleary eyes make fewer errors when they have caffeine, such as coffee or caffeinated energy drinks.

Sometimes, night work and shift work can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm. Shift-work disorder is a condition where a person experiences excessive sleepiness or insomnia due to their work schedules. Workers can feel very tired at work if they don’t get enough quality sleep.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, approximately 14% of Americans work as shift workers. Some examples of people who work after-hours include truck drivers, nurses, and emergency workers. Medical errors, accidents in the car, and occupational injuries have been shown to be linked with sleepiness while on the job.

Katherine Ker, a researcher at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and her colleagues reviewed data from 13 studies on the effects of caffeine in shift workers’ performance. The participants ranged in age from 18 to 65, although most were between 20 and 30.

The study design dictated whether the workers were given caffeine via coffee, energy drinks or food. The workers were required to complete neuropsychological tests in order to assess their attention, memory, reasoning, perception, and attention skills. Numerous studies have compared neuropsychological results in caffeine-treated participants with a placebo.

According to the study authors, caffeine was able to improve cognitive performance of shift workers and reduce job-related errors when compared to doing nothing at all. None of the reviewed studies evaluated the impact of caffeine on work-related injury.

In a news release, Ker stated,”It seems reasonable to assume that reduced errors are associated with fewer injuries, although we cannot quantify such a reduction.”

Updated: 01/25/2022