Naps key to surviving the hospital night shift

EMBARGO: 00:01H (London time) Friday February 10, 2006. In North America the embargo lifts at 18:30H ET Thursday February 9, 2006.

A nap is a doctor's "indispensable" secret weapon to survival when working nights, states an editorial in this week's issue of The Lancet.

The European Working Time Directive means that in the UK almost all trainee doctors now work night shifts. Sleep deprivation, combined with fatigue and a poorly adapted body clock, is closely connected with clinical error. Therefore a new guide* for navigating night shifts, produced by Nicholas Horrocks and Roy Pounder at the Royal College of Physicians of London, is both timely and immensely valuable, states the editorial. In their guide Horrocks and Pounder state that naps as short as 20 to 45 minutes have been shown to provide positive benefits to shift workers.

The Lancet comments: "Patients will always need medical care at night. And doctors will always be needed to deliver that care. What this latest guidance provides is the kind of practical common sense, informed by science, that benefits both doctor and patient. It deserves to be widely read."

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Contact: The Lancet press office 0207 424 4949/4249 pressoffice@lancet.com

Notes to editors
*Horroks N, Pounder J. Working the night shift: preparation, survival and recovery. A guide for junior doctors. Clinical Medicine 2006 Vol 6


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