The impact of a meal, snack, or not eating during the night shift on simulated driving performance post-shift

Charlotte C. Gupta, Stephanie Centofanti, Jillian Dorrian, Alison M. Coates, Jacqueline M. Stepien, David Kennaway, Gary Wittert, Leonie Heilbronn, Peter Catcheside, Georgia A. Tuckwell, Daniel Coro, Dilushi Chandrakumar, Siobhan Banks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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Objective The commute home following a night shift is associated with an increased risk for accidents. This study investigated the relationship between food intake during the night shift and simulated driving performance post-shift. 

Methods Healthy non-shift working males (N=23) and females (N=16), aged 18–39 years (mean 24.5, standard deviation 5.0, years) participated in a seven-day laboratory study and underwent four simulated night shifts. Participants were randomly allocated to one of three conditions: meal at night (N=12; 7 males), snack at night (N=13; 7 males) or no eating at night (N=14; 9 males). During the night shift at 00:30 hours, participants either ate a large meal (meal at night condition), a snack (snack at night condition), or did not eat during the night shift (no eating at night condition). During the second simulated night shift, participants performed a 40-minute York driving simulation at 20:00, 22:30, 01:30, 04:00, and 07:30 hours (similar time to a commute from work). 

Results The effects of eating condition, drive time, and time-on-task, on driving performance were examined using mixed model analyses. Significant condition×time interactions were found, where at 07:30 hours, those in the meal at night condition displayed significant increases in time spent outside of the safe zone (percentage of time spent outside 10 km/hour of the speed limit and 0.8 meters of the lane center; P<0.05), and greater lane and speed variability (both P<0.01) compared to the snack and no eating conditions. There were no differences between the snack and no eating conditions. 

Conclusion Driver safety during the simulated commute home is greater following the night shift if a snack, rather than a meal, is consumed during the shift.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-84
Number of pages7
JournalScandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health
Issue number1
Early online date15 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • Cognition
  • Meal pattern
  • Meal timing
  • Nocturnal eating
  • Shift work


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