Get a Full 8 Hours Every Night: Your Patients Depend on It!
Waking up tired is something anyone can relate to, but that doesn’t make it acceptable. For nurses especially, not getting a full night’s sleep is a serious problem. It affects everything from job performance to patient care. When your job involves caring for the sick or infirmed, every hour of shut-eye you can manage matters. Unfortunately, getting a full night’s sleep is often easier said than done.
Sleep loss is a hospital epidemic
Interrupted or erratic sleep schedules are a sad reality for most nurses. Due to the responsibilities of the job, nurses often work long hours and don’t always have the same shifts throughout the week. Travel nurses have it even harder, since new assignments might require a totally different sleep schedule than before, or even be in a different time zone. This can drastically affect the body’s rhythms and throw sleep out of whack.
On top of it all, nursing is, by nature, a stressful job. Demanding schedules, fluctuating patient needs, and potential shift challenges can take their toll. These things make getting a restful sleep even more difficult.
Unfortunately, not getting at least seven hours of sleep can have a significantly negative affect on your health. Beyond that, nurses need to make sure they’re getting enough sleep to perform well at their jobs.
Sleep deprivation affects you and your patients
Sleep deprivation can extend far beyond you feeling tired during your next shift. Failing to sleep enough each night can affect your health, and even your job performance and patients.
After just a few nights of poor sleep, your cognitive abilities begin to suffer. Sleep deprivation has been linked to reduced decision-making abilities, poor information retention, and short-term memory loss. Hampered cognition can be extremely dangerous in the workplace, leading to charting errors, medication mix-ups, and more harmful consequences for patients.
Your body also suffers from sleep deprivation. You may experience delayed motor function or decreased coordination, which can reduce your ability to react to patients’ needs quickly and effectively. In the long term, you may also be at a higher risk for numerous diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Tips for maximizing sleep
To reduce the effects of sleep deprivation on you, your coworkers, and your patients, pay attention to the quality and quantity of your sleep each day. Because of your fluctuating schedule, it may be impossible to stick to a strict sleep routine. However, there are other things you can do to make falling and staying asleep easier when you get home and your head hits the pillow:
- Decompress before bed ― After a long, stressful shift, you may head home feeling anxious or tense. This is a recipe for poor sleep! Taking time to meditate, take a warm bath, read, journal, or do some yoga before bed can help you shed the stress of your shift and sleep easier.
- Reduce caffeine intake ― You may be tempted to drain an energy drink or two to get you through your long, exhausting shift, but pay close attention to when you’re drinking caffeinated beverages. Having caffeine too close to the end of your shift can keep you up later and negatively affect your sleep quality.
- Create a sleep sanctuary ― If your bedroom isn’t cozy and comfortable, you’ll have a harder time getting to sleep. Create a cool and quiet environment and hang dark shades that will block out light if you have to sleep during the day.
The more you can do to improve your sleep ― no matter when you’re able to fit it in ― the better you’ll be able to care for yourself and your patients’ health.