Sleep and Shift Work: Implications for Worker Health and Safety

Sleep Symposium Illustration

Spring 2023 Symposium: Sleep and Shift Work: Implications for Worker Health and Safety

The video for the symposium is now available to watch on YouTube.

Friday, June 16, 2023
9:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. PT
Virtual via WebEx

About This Event

Sleep promotes overall health and well-being. Researchers have discovered that when sleep is disrupted, it can present serious health challenges. For example, shift workers who experience disruption to the natural circadian clock experience difficulty sleeping, which may contribute to higher rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity.

Participants attending this symposium will learn from internationally renowned sleep researchers about how sleep relates to various aspects of health and safety. In addition, supervisors and practitioners from health care, emergency services, manufacturing, and transportation will share industry-specific challenges faced by workers and strategies to mitigate the deleterious effects of sleep disruption.

Keynote Address: Charles Czeisler PhD, MD, internationally recognized sleep scholar, Baldino Professor of Sleep Medicine, Harvard University

Featured Talks from:

  • Dr. Jonathan Emens, School of Medicine at OHSU
  • Dr. Nicole Bowles, Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences, OHSU
  • Dr. Andrew McHill, School of Nursing, OHSU
  • Practitioners from OHSU Nursing, Portland Police and Fire

This event is an SHRM recertification activity qualifying participants for 5 hours of professional development credits.


Steven A. Shea, PhD

Steven Shea, Ph.D.
Director, Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences
Oregon Health and Sciences University

The goal of Dr. Shea’s research is to understand the biological basis behind changes in disease severity across the day and night, and to understand the physiological and adverse health effects of shift work. For instance, Dr. Shea is determining whether cardiovascular changes across the day and night are caused by the body clock (the endogenous circadian pacemaker) or attributable to behaviors that occur on a regular daily basis, including the sleep/wake cycle. Understanding the biological basis of these physiological and pathophysiological changes across the day and night may provide an insight into the underlying cause of the disease and could lead to better therapy (e.g. appropriately timed medication to target specific phases of the body clock or to coincide with specific behaviors that cause vulnerability, such as exercise), and countermeasures aimed at reducing the adverse health effects of shift work.

Interactions Between Shift Work, Safety and Health: Foundations of the Field

Charles A. Czeisler, M.D., Ph.D.
Frank Baldino, Jr., Ph.D. Professor of Sleep
Division of Sleep Medicine
Harvard Medical School

Charles Czeisler


The lecture will explore the influence of the interaction between circadian and homeostatic regulation of sleep and their impact on the ability to adapt to schedules that include night work. Practical advice will be provided on improving health and safety associated with shift work schedules that disrupt sleep by applying principles from sleep and circadian science.


Dr. Czeisler has more than 30 years of experience in the field of basic and applied research on the physiology of the human circadian timing system and its relationship to the sleep-wake cycle. For more than a decade he served as Team Leader of the Human Performance Factors, Sleep and Chronobiology Team of NASA’s National Space Biomedical Research Institute, which is responsible for developing sleep-wake schedule guidelines and related countermeasures for use by NASA astronauts and mission control personnel during space exploration. Dr. Czeisler has served on and consulted to a number of national and international advisory committees, including the National Institutes of Health, the Institute of Medicine, the National Academy of Sciences, the Sleep Research Society, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Air Transport Association and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration of the US Department of Transportation. Dr. Czeisler served as a Special Consultant to the Massachusetts Special Commission on Drowsy Driving and was elected Chair of the Sleep Disorders Research Advisory Board for the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Emergency Services, Shift Work and Sleep: What Could Go Wrong?

Moderator: Steven Shea, Ph.D., Director, Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences, OHSU


  • Charles A. Czeisler, Frank Baldino, Jr., Ph.D. Professor of Sleep, Harvard Medical School
  • Neil Parker, Portland Police Bureau, Training and Wellness Division
  • Michael Whitaker, Director of Adult Critical Care, OHSU

Shift Work and Mental Health

Jonathan S. Emens, M.D., F.A.B.S.M.
Associate Professor of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, OHSU
Assistant Professor of Medicine, School of Medicine, OHSU
Affiliate Faculty, Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences, OHSU
Staff Physician, VA Portland Health Care System

Dr. Jonnathan Emens

The symposium will review the impact of shift work on mood, mental health and psychiatric illness. More generally, the impact of misalignment between the timing 24-hour clock and other biological clocks and other biological and psychologically important activities will also be discussed.


Dr. Emens is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Oregon Health & Science University. He received his B.A. from Oberlin College and M.D. from the University of Massachusetts Medical School and completed his Internship and Psychiatry Residency at OHSU. Dr. Emens' clinical focus is on diagnosing and treating sleep disorders in the Portland VA Sleep Medicine Program. He is board certified in Psychiatry and Sleep Medicine. Dr. Emens’ research has focused on circadian rhythm sleep disorders (in particular, Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Rhythm Disorder), sleep and circadian physiology in mood disorders, and circadian physiology in sleep apnea and obesity.

A Community-engaged Approach to Improve the Sleep Health of First Responders

Nicole Bowles, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences, OHSU

Nicole Bowles, PhD

Among their routine daily duties, first responders, including firefighters and police officers, are responsible for managing medical emergencies and critical incident responses, which require 24-hour availability and thus can result in irregular daily schedules and prevent the establishment of regular sleep patterns. Dr. Bowles will lead a panel discussion along with representative stakeholders on her recent work with the Portland Firefighters Association (IAFF Local 43) and the Portland Police Bureau’s Wellness Program as both organizations work towards implementing new policies or programs to improve the sleep health of their workforce. Key research partners will join Professor Bowles: Travis Chipman, Firefighter, Portland Fire and Rescue, and Cameron Homan, Firefighter, Portland Fire and Rescue.

Dr. Bowles graduated with her Ph.D. from Rockefeller University and earned a master's in clinical epidemiology from Weill Cornell Medical College as a Health Disparities and Community Engagement Research Fellow. Dr. Bowles, who joined Dr. Shea's laboratory in August 2016, is funded by a Ford Foundation Fellowship; broadly, her research focuses on the interplay between stress, endogenous circadian rhythms, and the endocannabinoid system in humans.

Impact of Working, Eating and Sleeping Around the Clock on Health and Wellbeing

Andrew McHill, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
School of Nursing, OHSU

Andrew McHill, PhD, Assistant Professor, School of Nursing, Oregon Health & Science University

Obesity and cardiovascular disease rates have reached alarming levels throughout the developed world. While years of research has focused on overeating, poor diet choices, and inactivity as causes of weight gain and disease, these factors cannot fully account for the continued rise in poor health outcomes observed. Recent evidence suggests that the timing of food intake and sleep may play a role in cardiometabolic health. We have recently shown that eating during the biological night is a novel mechanism for higher body composition, potentially through a decrease in energy expenditure at night. Moreover, we have found that a variable timing of sleep onset is correlated with poorer blood pressure control in both new and chronic shift workers. This presentation will discuss our field and in-laboratory findings for how the timing of calories plays a role in cardiometabolic health, how sleep may play a role in cardiovascular health, and also discuss potential targets for future intervention.

Dr. McHill graduated with a Ph.D. in Integrative Physiology with a specialization in sleep and circadian physiology from the University of Colorado Boulder. After graduating, he completed an NIH funded post-doctoral fellowship at the Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School within the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders and joined the OHSU Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences in Dr. Shea's Circadian Laboratory in 2016 as a visiting post-doctoral fellow. In September 2017, he became a Research Assistant Professor within the institute and in 2021 established the Sleep, Chronobiology, and Health Laboratory within the OHSU School of Nursing as an Assistant Professor. Dr. McHill is interested in understanding the contributing mechanisms by which the mistiming of behaviors (i.e. shiftwork or jetlag) and chronic insufficient sleep leads to adverse health and poor cognitive performance outcomes.

Nurturing a Culture of Wellness: Workplace Solutions

Emily Bergkamp, M.P.A.
Interim General Manager at Intercity Transit
Olympia, Washington

Emily Bergkamp, M.P.A.

Emily Bergkamp, M.P.A. Interim General Manager at Intercity Transit Olympia, Washington, will provide an overview of what proactive and reactive policies and practices her agency is doing to support worker safety and wellness in light of challenges faced by shift workers. Her solutions-oriented presentation will then invite event participants to discuss in small groups potential additional strategies that employers and workers can do to mitigate the health and safety challenges faced by shift workers across a variety of industries. 

Emily Bergkamp started her nearly 20-year career at Intercity Transit in 2004 as Vanpool Coordinator, moved to Youth Education Specialist in 2007, progressed to Dial-A-Lift Manager in 2008, was promoted to Operations Director in 2018, and is currently the serving Interim General Manager. Emily has a Bachelor of Arts from St. Martin’s University and a Master in Public Administration from the University of Washington Evans School of Public Policy and Governance. She also maintains a Class B Washington Commercial Driver’s License. Emily is an American Public Transportation Association (APTA) 2013 Leadership APTA program graduate. Leadership APTA prepares the next generation of visionary senior and executive leaders of APTA and the public transportation industry. Emily strives to be a knowledgeable and personable problem solver. She lives in Olympia, WA with her husband and two children. 

Saurabh S. Thosar, PhD, MS, OTR/L, Assistant Professor Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences, OHSU

Saurabh S. Thosar, Ph.D., M.S., OTR/L
Assistant Professor
Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences

Saurabh received a B.O.Th in Occupational Therapy from Maharashtra University of Health Science in India, an M.S. in Movement Sciences from the Univ. of Illinois Chicago, and a Ph.D. in Human Performance (Physiology) from Indiana Univ. Bloomington. He is a certified clinical exercise specialist and licensed occupational therapist. Saurabh joined Dr. Shea's group as a postdoctoral fellow in January 2014 and has received a fellowship from the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, an early clinical investigator award from the Medical Research Foundation of Oregon, and a postdoctoral fellowship from the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Thosar studies the interactions between sleep, circadian rhythms and physical inactivity/activity as they relate to cardiovascular disease; and the development of chronotherapeutic countermeasures to cardiovascular risks in vulnerable populations.