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Systematic Review

Source: The Cochrane Collaborative

Last Reviewed: August 2014

Shift work can cause sleepiness and sleep disorders. This systematic review evaluated the effects of pharmacological interventions to reduce sleepiness and decrease sleep disturbances in shift workers. It identified 15 studies with a total of 718 participants. The studies evaluated either drugs for improving sleep problems or drugs to decrease sleepiness. This review found low-quality evidence that melatonin improves sleep length, but not sleep quality, after a night shift. Hypnotics did not increase sleep length or quality. Modafinil and armodafinil can decrease sleepiness but may also cause adverse events. Caffeine plus naps can reduce sleepiness. There is a need for more and better-quality trials on the beneficial and adverse effects of all pharmacological agents that induce sleep or promote alertness in shift workers.

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Suggested Citation


Liira, J., Verbeek, J.H., Costa, G., Driscoll, T.R., Sallinen, M., Isotalo, L.K. & Ruotsalainen, J.H. (2014). Pharmacological interventions for sleepiness and sleep disturbances caused by shift work. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2014 (8). DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD009776.pub2.