From Lab to Labour
Results of the Ladenburg Collegium "ClockWORK"
on June 16th 2010
in the DIN (German Institute for Standardization) Building
Whoever wants to hold his own on the job has to be cognitively efficient throughout the working day: Tasks change repeatedly, decisions have to be made, dexterity is required, and many occupations demand a high degree of linguistic competence. But no-one can meet these requirements constantly on a uniformly high level. The research Collegium "ClockWORK" has been studying such performance fluctuations in the course of a 24-hour day since 2005. To this end, biologists and psychologists, physicians and engineers have developed robust testing methods in the laboratory. With little effort, these methods also served to observe the genetically- conditioned "internal clock" and to record the sleep of employees in rotating shift systems.
A test person is being prepared for an experiment in the Charitè's sleep laboratory in Berlin.
Shift workers in "social jet lag"
Our internal clock schedules all of the processes in our bodies, and therefore plays an important role for health and for the quality of life also in daily life. The internal clock is synchronized with the 24-hour day primarily by light - and not by daily social rhythms. For that reason, extreme discrepancies can arise in working life between individually-set internal biological time and external social time. This disparity, the so-called "social jet lag", is especially drastic among shift workers, so that an increasingly greater share of the working population suffers under various health problems, such as sleep disorders.
Shielded from natural light, the diurnal variation of cognitive performance was recorded in the sleep laboratory.
Test of the laboratory results in the working world
The collegium oriented itself on the medical approach "from bench to bedside" according to which disease-oriented basic research influences clinical therapy. Correspondingly, the collegium studied the problem of social jet lag in a "From Lab to Labour" approach, in which it tested the laboratory results of the first phase in field studies in the working world. Their partners in this work were Volkswagen, Siemens, Osram, and the Charité. The methods developed in the laboratory were employed in the second phase in workplaces with rotating shift systems. The scientists will show how all of the results of both phases can be used for planning working hours on June 16th 2010 in Berlin.
The Collegium "ClockWORK" is a sponsorship priority program of the Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz Foundation. It is intended to contribute to improving the situation of employees in shift work.