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Background: Shift work is essential in society but can be detrimental to health and quality of life and is associated with decreased productivity and increased risk of accidents. Interventions to reduce these consequences are needed, but the extent and range of trial evidence for interventions for those most affected by their shift-work schedules is unclear. We therefore carried out a scoping review to assess the availability of evidence to inform the development and evaluation of future interventions. Methods: We aimed to identify clinical trials of any intervention for shift work-related sleep disturbance that included a comparator group, where the intervention was delivered in an occupational setting. We searched Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, CINAHL, EMBASE, Medline and Science Citation Index from inception to 30 th March 2020 for relevant citations. Citations were screened by two independent reviewers, a third reviewer resolved disagreements. Data were extracted by two independent reviewers. Results: From 1250 unique citations, 14 studies met inclusion criteria for comparative trials of treatment in an occupational setting. There were five trials of hypnotics, five trials of stimulants, and four trials of non-pharmacological therapies (cognitive behavioural therapy, light therapy, aromatherapy and herbal medicine). Outcomes included sleep parameters, day-time sleepiness, and quality of life. There were no consistently reported outcomes across trials. Conclusions: Interventions fell into three distinct groups investigated in distinct time periods without progression from efficacy trials to wider-scale interventions. The lack of consistent patient-reported outcome measures limits synthesising findings. Some trials focussed on optimising sleep, others on reducing wake-time sleepiness. Adequately powered trials of existing interventions are needed, with the development and testing of novel combination treatments in patients with well-defined shift work sleep disorder. A core set of clinically relevant outcomes will develop and standardise the evidence-base for shift work sleep disorder.

Original publication




Journal article


Wellcome open research

Publication Date





Medical Science Division, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.