How Nurses Can Cope With Shift Work Sleep Disorder
Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD) among nurses is prevalent due to varying shift hours.
Contrary to popular belief, Shift Work Sleep Disorder doesn’t solely exist in night-shift employees, as any shift workers outside of the “normal” 9a-5p are at risk. Nurses are especially vulnerable due to frequently rotating shift schedules and odd hours.
What are the signs of Shift Work Sleep Disorder?
If you are a nurse and work a non-traditional schedule, be on the lookout for these signs and symptoms:
● Increased irritability
● Excessive sleepiness during the day
● Waking up feeling unrefreshed from sleep
● Inadequate energy
● Difficulty with concentrating
If these symptoms cannot be linked to another existing disorder, you may be suffering from SWSD.
A 2018 study published in Sleep Science and Practice found that nurses with SWSD were found to have increased physiological markers of stress and generalized health complaints compared to nurses without SWSD.
A noteworthy find during this study was that nurses with SWSD had a higher prevalence of needle-stick injury. This is concerning when nurses frequently work with patients who may have blood-borne pathogens.
How can nurses cope with Shift Work Sleep Disorder?
Sleeping during weird hours, especially during the daytime, can be extremely difficult for nurses with rotating shifts.
The National Sleep Foundation has some excellent recommendations for improving daytime sleep.
● Wear sunglasses on your drive home – Try to eliminate as much light as possible before sleeping so your body isn’t stimulated to “wake up.”
● Use blackout curtains to provide an environment conducive to sleep.
● Ensure your environment is quiet – Use a sound machine and/or earplugs to avoid excess noise that can disrupt your sleep.
● Lower the thermostat – Cooler temperatures help with sleep.
● Avoid caffeine consumption for at least a few hours before attempting to sleep.
● Get others on board – If you have family or roommates, ensure they understand you need uninterrupted sleep time and a need for a quiet environment.
What else can be done?
Shift coverage in hospitals is essential to providing quality care for the population. Sometimes it is impossible to avoid a varying shift schedule.
What else can nurses do to cope with Shift Work Sleep Disorder?
Our best advice is to keep as much of a schedule as possible. While it may seem convenient to stay awake on your day off instead of getting some sleep, don’t do it! Quality sleep and mental alertness is essential, especially for nurses that need to be at their best.
For more information and tips on Shift Work Sleep Disorder, visit The National Sleep Foundation
Fadeyi, B.A., Ayoka, A.O., Fawale, M.B. et al. Prevalence, predictors and effects of shift work sleep disorder among nurses in a Nigerian teaching hospital. Sleep Science Practice 2, 6 (2018) doi:10.1186/s41606-018-0027-x