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Thirty winks pull night hawks through wee hours

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A nap is a physician’s best defense against the risk of clinical errors that arise from working extraordinarily long hours, according to an editorial in the Feb. 11 issue of The Lancet.

A nap is a physician's best defense against the risk of clinical errors that arise from working extraordinarily long hours, according to an editorial in the Feb. 11 issue of The Lancet.

Referring to a guide written by Dr. Nicholas Horrocks and Dr. Roy Pounder at the Royal College of Physicians in London, The Lancet stressed that naps are a powerful way of staying refreshed.

Even naps as short as 20 minutes have been shown to provide positive benefits to shift workers, the guide said.

Other strategies also help keep sleep deprivation to a minimum. Horrocks and Pounder advise physicians working night shifts to make sure they get a full night's sleep before the first night on call. An afternoon nap in a quiet place with subdued lighting before a night shift begins ensures proper preparation.

The authors also advise a prudent diet and use of caffeine to maintain alertness.

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