Find out more about Rest and other focus areas of the Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation Grand Challenge.
The benefits of healthy sleep are well known: heightened alertness, boosted mood, increased energy, better concentration, more stamina, greater motivation, better judgment, and improved learning.
Conversely, when sleep deprived, most people acknowledge they feel grumpy, tired, or irritable. What people don’t often appreciate is the physical harm it can also cause. The National Institutes of Health reports that inadequate sleep can lead to obesity, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, and mood disorders.
The dangers of inadequate sleep are real – especially for those working on the front line of health care.
What is healthy sleep?
At least seven hours of restorative, comfortable rest daily. Adequate sleep is essential to human health and an absolute necessity for nurses – whose ability to make informed decisions about patient care can be seriously impaired by fatigue.
On top of that, sleep disorders such as insomnia, night terrors, sleepwalking, sleep apnea, night sweats, narcolepsy, bed wetting, teeth grinding, and Restless Leg Syndrome can be quite serious and/or indicative of an underlying issue. If you are suffering from any of these, see your health care provider for a further evaluation.
What can I do to improve my sleep?
There are a number of simple, practical ways you can increase the odds of getting a good night’s sleep and help reduce the detrimental effects of fatigue on your ability to perform your job:
- Avoid nicotine;
- Keep a consistent bedtime and routine;
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine prior to bedtime;
- Engage in relaxing activities prior to bedtime such as prayer, warm bath, calming music, or reading;
- Get comfortable with a supportive mattress and adequate pillows;
- Ensure your room is dark, quiet (unless you prefer soft music or white noise), and at a cool but comfortable temperature;
- If you’re anxiety-prone, keep a pad of paper by your bed to write down your worries - then let them go until morning;
- Neither starve nor stuff yourself prior to bedtime; and
- Exercise earlier in the day to promote better sleep.
The American Nurses Association (ANA) has also compiled a list of useful external resources :
Additional sleep resources:
A printable guide to healthy sleep from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
NIH Sleep Web Pages
The section of the NIH website associated with sleep and sleep conditions.
Healthy People 2020 on Sleep
The sleep help hub of the Healthy People 20/20 program.
These webpages offer fact sheets, data, statistics, publications and more.
Remember, sleep deprivation is widely recognized as a form of torture and interrogation technique, so don’t torture yourself! Ensure that you and your patients comply with the CDC (via the National Sleep Foundation) recommended 7-9 hours of daily sleep for adults.
Our Shiftwork Sleep Disorder program
The damaging effects of fatigue resulting from Shiftwork Sleep Disorder (SWSD) – an acknowledged medical condition – can affect not just nurses but potentially any of the 22 million Americans who are shift workers. To help nurses gain a better understanding of SWSD, and how to deal with it, we have created an online course focusing on the issue:
How ANA is acting for change
ANA recognizes the underlying issues around workplace fatigue and is actively campaigning to make fatigue considerations part of any healthy work environment program.
Our official position includes the challenge that “Evidence-based strategies must be implemented to proactively address nurse fatigue and sleepiness; to promote the health, safety, and wellness of registered nurses; and ensure optimal patient outcomes.” We are actively urging employers to collaborate with us to find ways of reducing the risks around fatigue.
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