Deprivation Is a Major Occupational Hazard
in Night Shift Nursing
2.1 million health
care professionals are in jobs that require extended hours or
shift work that compromise their normal sleep schedule that
can lead to sleep deprivation. The adverse effects are
profound. Lack of sleep predisposes nurses to medical errors,
auto accidents, impaired productivity, decreased work
performance, and poor health.
In one study, a
questionnaire was administered to nurses at a large academic
hospital. The results proved nurses who worked a rotating
schedule, when compared to nurses who predominately worked day
shifts, were more likely to fall asleep at work and get less
sleep over all, and were nearly twice as likely to report
committing a medication error.
professionals will attest that sleep deprivation from shift
work may lead to occurrences that jeopardize not only
themselves, but also their patients. Fatigue from long shifts
can reduce attention to detail, affecting critical thinking
and performance. Although sleep is not cumulative, sleep
deprivation is. The more hours a person works, the longer it
takes to complete a task. More mistakes are made, and
alertness is markedly decreased.
The symptoms of sleep
deprivation are clear: difficulty getting up, a feeling of
tiredness throughout the shift, irritability, lack of energy,
memory problems, and decreased concentration. According to the
National Sleep Foundation research, people who sleep less than
six hours per day are also more likely to be tired, sad,
stressed, and/or angry.
deprivation of as little as an hour a day can lead to a sleep
debt over time that is not easily erased.
When we have a sleep debt, our
inclination to fall asleep the next day increases. The larger
the sleep debt, the stronger the tendency to fall asleep.
Sleep debt does not go away by itself. Sleeping is the only
way to erase sleep debt.
How Can Night Shift Nurses
Get the Sleep They Need?
There are several small
things that night shift nurses can do to increase both their
quality and quantity of sleep. One of the easiest is to make
sure their bedroom is totally dark. A totally dark bedroom
tricks the mind into releasing the sleep inducing hormone
Melatonin, allowing them to fall asleep faster and sleeping
Get the sleep you need with
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schedules and shift work: replacing the '9-to-5'
workday?" Mon Labor Rev. 2000
Gold DR, Rogacz S, Bock N, et al. "Rotating
shift work, sleep, and accidents related to
sleepiness in hospital nurse" Am J
Public Health. 1992; 82:1011-1014
Jackson, Rene. "Nursing and Sleep
Deprivation: What Everyone Needs to Know" AssociatedContent.com.
VanDongen HP, Maislin G, Mullington JM, Dinges
DF. "The cumulative cost of additional
wakefulness: dose-response on neurobehavioral
functions and sleep physiology from chronic
sleep restriction and total sleep
deprivation" Sleep. 2003;26:117-126
Stokowski, Laura A. "A Wake-up Call For
Nurse: Sleep Loss, Safety, and Health" 7th
Annual Neonatal Advanced Practice Nursing Forum