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Can melatonin improve adaptation to night shift?

The American Journal of Emergency Medicine
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s0735-6757(98)90129-2
  • Melatonin
  • Night Shift
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Sleep
  • Mood
  • Workload
  • Wellness
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Biology
  • Medicine


Abstract This study was undertaken to determine whether melatonin ( N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine) is effective in helping emergency medical services (EMS) personnel who work rotating night shifts reset their biological clocks and minimize circadian rhythm disruption. A double-blinded, randomized, crossover study was performed using 22 volunteers. Participants were working a span of consecutive night (2300 to 0700 hours) shifts and received either a melatonin capsule (6 mg) or placebo to be taken before each of the consecutive day sleeps. Each participant completed a total of 4 spans of consecutive night shifts (2 melatonin, 2 placebo). Collected data included daily sleep diaries, quantification of alcohol/caffeine consumed, and drug side effects. Assessment of sleep quality, posttreatment mood, and workload ratings were measured daily by 10-cm visual analog scale (VAS). Analysis of sleep diaries found no significant difference ( P > .05) between the two treatments with respect to mean sleep latency, duration, and efficiency, and subjectively rated sleep quality. Similarly, no significant benefits were noted between the median VAS scores for daily posttreatment mood or workload ratings. Adverse effects were rare; one patient taking melatonin reported a prolonged sedative effect. Despite recent interest in melatonin for treatment of circadian-based sleep disorders, no clinical benefits were noted in EMS personnel working rotating night shifts.

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