Nursing is an occupation that comes with a lot of responsibility, and every action should be taken to ensure that everything goes smoothly. Not only do you have to worry about caring for patients, but you also have to make sure that legal requirements are being fulfilled. In the case of night-shift nurses, sleep deprivation can impede performing the job as effectively as possible. There are all sorts of issues that can accompany the lack of sleep, and it is clear that there is a need for napping spaces for night-shift nurses.
The Importance of Sleep
Sleep is critical for brain function. A person with a tired brain is more likely to make simple mistakes, have slower reflexes, worse decision-making capabilities, and even higher levels of stress. These side effects can impede anyone’s daily tasks, but the risks are much larger for nurses. Because nursing directly involves other people who depend on them, often for their very life, a nurse needs to be able to function at their most capable level. Indeed, nurses working long shifts that cut into regular sleep are much more likely to make medical errors than their well-rested counterparts.
In addition to acute symptoms like those mentioned above, the lack of sleep can also lead to bigger health problems. Heart disease and diabetes are two common health issues that are exacerbated by sleep deprivation. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule, or at least allowing the body to get more sleep, is a major factor in preventing diseases like this.
Finally, sleep is crucial for brain function, especially memory and information recall. During deep sleep, our brain locks in all of the information we’ve gathered throughout the day. If we aren’t sleeping sufficiently, our brain doesn’t get the time to siphon through everything it learned throughout the day and will likely toss it all out as unimportant. Just like a nurse on the night shift, a brain on the night shift might struggle to perform routine tasks. Information recall will become more difficult and new memories won’t be formed properly. This is dangerous for nurses who learn new information every day and need to remember which patients need which treatments.
The Benefits of Napping
For nurses working overnight or during long shifts that cut into their sleep schedule, napping can be a simple solution. Restorative napping, or the concept of taking short naps during regular breaks, have been shown to prevent fatigue, enhance performance, and help improve mood. This has been especially true for nurses working in intensive care units or emergency rooms where stress levels are high.
Often called power naps, short bursts of sleep for about 20 minutes may not be as good as a full 8 hours, but they are very helpful for reducing many of the effects of sleep deprivation without causing too much of a disruption during work hours.
Napping Rooms to the Rescue
As the link between sleep and brain function is becoming more understood, hospitals around the world are recognizing the importance of sleep. The creation of dedicated sleep rooms for napping is a growing trend. Unfortunately, however, these sleep rooms are generally created for on-call physicians, ER doctors, and other higher-level employees of hospitals. Nurses are often overlooked. Their job is seen as less important or demanding that that of medical doctors, so they do not get to benefit from most napping rooms. .
However, it should be noted that nurses work incredibly hard, both with patients and paperwork. Any small mistake they might make while tired can be just as serious as those that doctors may make. And as legal demands and healthcare programs increase in complexity, it is ever more imperative that RNs are well-rested and physically and mentally capable of tackling the night’s work.
Napping is a simple and inexpensive solution to the problem of sleep deprivation within the night nurse population. A space can easily be transformed to allow nurses to take short 20-minute naps every few hours. However, this will only happen if nurses urge hospital managers to make the change. With a variety of studies being done on the subjects of sleep deprivation, its symptoms, and the unfortunate side-effects of a lack of sleep, there is no shortage of evidence that points to napping being a reasonable solution.
What To Do
If you are a night-shift nurse suffering from sleep deprivation and want to make a change, gather up a few studies to bring to your supervisor and make a request for a napping room. With the proof in your hand, intelligent supervisors will be eager to help limit the consequences of sleep deprivation.