It's perhaps no surprise that many doctors suffer from sleep deprivation. Taking 600mg of caffeine (the required dose for maximum wakefulness-promoting effects) isn't ideal since it can lead to a case of the jitters which can make surgery a little complicated, so a recent study looked at a drug that could promote wakefulness without this inconvenient side-effect.
In a study of 39 doctors, modafinil (marketed as Provigil in the US) didn't appear to improve actual performance when it came to performing surgery (fortunately this was carried out on a simulator for the purposes of this study), however it was shown to boost some types of mental agility and reduce the amount of time needed to formulate complicated plans.
It's worth mentioning that in the United States, modafinil is only approved to treat sleep apnea and narcolepsy. However, if further research finds that the drug can boost the brain power of sleep deprived individuals, maybe that'll change. Perhaps it could even make those post-insomnia days a lot safer, too.
Source: University of Cambridge
Last updated: December 8, 2011