Picture an autoworker that is tasked to work the graveyard shift indefinitely. While working he is working procedurally as he is supposed to but he is drowsy, fatigued, and easily distracted, all common effects of being overtired due to shift work. Drinking plenty of coffee only gets him wired and the new power drinks are also loaded with caffeine and do the same. The low is not worth the high. Even caffeine stimulant pills have been tried to help him manage through his shifts.
When he finally finishes and gets home he remains restless and agitated, set off by the little things that most people constructively deal with daily. Any sleep he manages is sporadic and non restful. He is living to work and has no enjoyable social or family life because he is simply too tired to make the effort. It is said that when you work shifts specifically the night shift you never get used to it. Some part of your day will suffer from lack of adequate rest.
Our committed shift worker found a website online that discussed SWSD or shift worker sleep disorder, which sounded very much like what he was going through. It discussed a new drug known as modafinil or provigil, which was helping people stay alert and focused at work without the stimulated feeling or High associated with other wake ups he had tried. After speaking with a physician he was prescribed a brand name modafinil and simply takes his dosage before leaving for his job. The side effects are few and seem to be tapering off. Mild headaches initially and some loose stools that did not last long.
When he first began taking modafinil he expected a stronger reaction from the drug that what he actually experienced. There was not any buzz associated with taking modafinil as he had felt with other stimulants. He felt very productive and wide awake. There was not the rush feeling either. He was able to perform his job flawlessly and he was in a much more improved mood, easier to be around he suspected. After work he was able to sleep without feeling restless or hyper.
Modafinil is approved by the FDA for the treatment of narcolepsy, a disorder that causes uncontrolled sleep during otherwise wakeful periods in a person’s daily life. Research data has shown modafinil has a proclivity to help with other sleep related disorders beyond the scope of current federal approval. Hence there is a fair bit of off label prescribing being done with modafinil. Shift workers are benefiting from this drug, as are others who have a need to remain awake during those time intervals when sleep would come easily. The military is even using modafinil in certain situations where vigilance and focus are demanded.
Modafinil is not considered a stimulant however it is sometimes referred to as that in some quarters. It works in a portion of the brain rather than in the nervous system as stimulants do. There is not much research available about how modafinil actually works but experts think it works stop or slow a chemical reaction in the brain that is responsible for activating drowsiness and eventual sleep.
Modafinil is used as a therapy for sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that causes sufferers to slow their breathing involuntarily and even stop breathing in severe cases. This causes the person to be jarred awake struggling to catch their breath and enduring this pattern throughout the night. Unfortunately this disjointed type of rest means these people are literally walking around in daytime hours exhausted from sleep deprivation. Those taking modafinil can now function more normally with improved attention spans, less fatigue and with a more effectual regular apnea therapy.
Modafinil appears to be an effective treatment for certain illnesses but probably the main benefit of the drug is that for the most part there are few if any adverse effects when taking it. Evidence has shown that users are able to fall asleep with little trouble when they actually need to sleep. Since it is not habit forming and works in the head and not the nervous system, modafinil has sparked particular interest in research for its use as a drug treatment protocol for shift workers.
p.s. interesting video “The Military Grade Smart Drug“