Researchers reviewed data from 13 trials studying the effects of caffeine on performance in shift workers. Caffeine was given in coffee, pills, energy drinks or caffeinated food. In some trials, performance was assessed by tasks such as driving, whereas in others it was assessed by neuropsychological tests.
Caffeine appeared to reduce errors compared to placebos or naps, and improved performance in various psychological tests, including those focusing on memory, attention, perception and concept formation and reasoning. However, there was no difference in their speaking and language skills.
None of the trials measured injuries directly, but it's thought that improved performance may translate into reduced numbers of injuries caused by sleepiness, according to researchers.
More than fifteen percent of workers in industrialized countries are involved in some shift or nighttime work, which can upset natural circadian rhythms or 'body clocks'.
Sleepiness during shift work is thought to increase the risk of adverse events such as traffic crashes, occupational injuries and medical errors.
The findings were published in the Cochrane Library.
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