Fatigue Research/studies Shift work

Sleep-inducing, alertness drugs offer little benefit to shift workers: study


Photo: iStock/Thinkstock

Oxford, England – Drugs taken by shift workers to help them stay awake on the job or go to sleep after work offer few benefits, according to a study from the Cochrane Occupational Safety and Health Review Group.

Researchers reviewed 15 trials and more than 700 participants for the study. They found that, among night-shift workers seeking to increase alertness, the drugs modafinil and armodafinil decreased sleepiness but caused headaches, nausea, increased blood pressure and adverse skin reactions.

Meanwhile, workers who took melatonin after a night shift slept longer than workers who took a placebo but did not fall asleep faster. In addition, researchers found that the hypnotic drug zoplicone, when compared to a placebo, did not lead to significantly longer sleep during the day.

Researchers cautioned that most of the data came from small, low-quality trials. The trials often took place in specific settings, such as oil rigs or in health care, so results might not apply to employees in other workplaces, they said.