NIOSH logo and tagline

NIOSH Training for Nurses on Shift Work and Long Work Hours


Make it a goal to learn more about circadian rhythms, sleep, and strategies, including manipulating light exposure to promote adaptation to shift work. Routinely check scientific sources for new information. Suggestions for literature search terms are shift work (or shiftwork), work schedule tolerance, circadian rhythm adaptation, and fatigue management. The more you understand about this area, the better equipped you will be to decide how to adapt to shift work.

Learn about caffeine: the pros and cons of use; optimal times and dosages. Develop a plan to use caffeine wisely, if at all.

Learn about melatonin, stimulants, and sedatives. See reference list for selected articles.1-4 Note that the risks of long-term use of these substances are not known, so the behavioral strategies discussed in this training program should be used fully to achieve alertness and good sleep. Careful use of sleep medications and stimulants could be considered for short-term help until the non-pharmacologic strategies can be implemented or when occasional difficulties with sleep or alertness occur. Consult your healthcare provider or a sleep disorders specialist if you are having continuing trouble with sleep and maintaining alertness and are considering using any of these substances.

Meet with your work colleagues to discuss these issues and exchange ideas on what has worked for them and what they have learned about lately.

Module:12, Page 3 of 11