Reuters Heath recently published a study documenting the efficacy of shift workers using OTC and prescription drugs to either stay awake or to fall asleep. The evidence shows that there is not much efficacy behind doing this.
There has not been many studies done around this practice. You would think with the number of workers who do shift work in the United States there would have been studies done on this practice to date. Clearly shift workers are on the opposite schedule of most of the working population; needing to be a work when they should be sleeping and vice versa.
The study was conducted at the Finish Institute of Occupational Health in Finland – data was gathered by 15 different trials that included 718 participants. For the trial participants used melatonin and hypnotic drugs to fall asleep after shift work. To stay awake during their shifts modafinil, armopdafinil, and caffeine were studied – naps were also included in the study.
The study found the taking OTC melatonin only added about an extra 24 minutes of sleep during the day. When a nap and caffeine were taking before starting the night shift is was shown that workers may have been more alert. Doctors say the evidence on this is weak. To me this is the same as people working regular hours, I know I am like most people I am dragging before I get that first cup of Joe in the morning, and I need more to get me through the day.
Modafinil (Provigil) which requires a prescription in the United States improved alertness in workers but as with many prescription drugs carries many side effects – headaches and nausea are common.
People who need to sleep during the day should exercise other methods, I agree with the study in the when they get off work naturally they are tired and can fall asleep, but when you have sunlight and people awake the trick is staying asleep. If people made sure that their bedrooms were dark, used darkening shades, and kept the noise out they would probably sleep better.
People should always try the safest ways first which would be making lifestyle changes because as with any drug whether OTC or prescription there carries a risk of side effects, dependency, and overdosing. Lifestyle changes will cause no harm to the body where pharmacological ways can.