Nursing & Healthcare News

Too Little Shut-Eye

Study finds sleep deprivation is common for on-shift nurses

How much sleep do you normally get before a shift? A new study suggests that for many nurses, the answer is, “Not enough.”

Eighty-Three Minutes Less

If you work 12-hour shifts, you probably find that you get less sleep on days you’re on-shift than on your days off. How much less? According to a recent study in the journal Sleep Health, nurses average 83 minutes less sleep on days they’re scheduled to work than on days they’re not.

While days off do provide some opportunity to catch up on missed sleep, it isn’t usually enough to compensate, especially if you work two or more days in a row.

Nursing Education

“[A]fter several days of not getting enough sleep, more than one day of ‘recovery sleep’ — or more than 10 hours in bed — may be needed to return to baseline functioning,” explains lead author Amy Witkoski Stimpfel, RN, Ph.D., an assistant professor at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing.

Patient Safety Risk

Going into work with a mounting sleep deficit is unpleasant, and it can also be unsafe. The study correlated nurses’ sleep with standardized quality measures and found that sleep deficits translated into poorer quality of care. RNs’ lack of sleep also had a negative impact on patient safety. The reasons aren’t hard to grasp: Being short on sleep impairs your judgment, reduces your ability to manage stress and makes it harder to cope with complex challenges.

Hiring Now

“It is in everyone’s interest to have nurses well-rested so they can perform their critical function within the healthcare system and keep patients safe,” says coauthor Christine Kovner, RN, Ph.D., FAAN, Mathey Mezey Professor of Geriatric Nursing at NYU Meyers.

The full Sleep Health study was published online Dec. 11, 2019, and appears in the June 2020 print edition.


Aaron Severson is a freelance writer, editor, and writing consultant as well as the associate editor of Working Nurse.


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