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Friday, August 15, 2014

Little evidence to support sleep/wake drugs for shift workers: study

Today's post was shared by Safe Healthy Workers and comes from

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – - Many shift workers use over-the-counter and prescription drugs to stay awake or fall asleep at the appropriate times – but the evidence behind those practices is weak, researchers say.

Use of these drugs for this purpose “has been studied to a very limited extent and the studies that have been published mostly have not been of sufficient quality to allow firm conclusions,” said Dr. David Neubauer, associate director of the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center in Baltimore, Maryland.

“Considering the large number of people who do shift work, it certainly is unfortunate that minimal research has been performed to offer clinical guidance to address the problems of inadequate alertness or sleepiness,” Neubauer, who was not involved with the new study, told Reuters Health by email.

For the study, Dr. Juha Liira of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Helsinki and colleagues gathered data from 15 trials involving 718 participants. The trials evaluated the effect of melatonin and hypnotic drugs on sleep after the shift, and the effect of modafinil, armodafinil and caffeine plus naps on sleepiness during the shift.

They found that taking a nap and caffeine before a night shift may improve alertness, and daytime melatonin may add around 24 minutes of extra sleep during daylight hours, but the evidence is weak.

For some workers, modafinil improves alertness at work but carries the risk of side effects like...

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