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Fatigue in Military Aviation: An Overview of U.S. Military-Approved Pharmacological Countermeasures

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Caldwell JA, Caldwell JL. Fatigue in military aviation: an overview of U.S. military-approved pharmacological countermeasures. Aviat Space Environ Med 2005; 76(7, Suppl.):C39-51.

Uncomfortable working and sleeping environments, high operational tempos, sustained operations, and insufficient staffing make fatigue a growing concern. In aviation, where a single mistake can cost millions of dollars, it is essential to optimize operator alertness. Although behavioral and administrative fatigue countermeasures should comprise the “first line” approach for sustaining aircrew performance, pharmacological fatigue countermeasures are often required. Various components of the U.S. military have authorized the use of specific compounds for this purpose. Hypnotics such as temazepam, zolpidem, or zaleplon can mitigate the fatigue associated with insufficient or disturbed sleep. Alertness-enhancing compounds such as caffeine, modafinil, or dextroamphetamine can temporarily bridge the gap between widely spaced sleep periods. Each of these medications has a role in sustaining the safety and effectiveness of military aircrews. The present paper provides a short overview of these compounds as well as factors to be considered before choosing one or more to help manage fatigue.
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Keywords: aviation; fatigue; hypnotic; stimulant; sustained operations

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2005

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