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NIOSH Training for Nurses on Shift Work and Long Work Hours

Module 6. Improving Your Sleep and Alertness


You can improve the quantity and quality of your sleep.1 In this module we will cover these topics:

  • How to set up a good sleep environment
  • How you should prepare for sleep
  • How to time your sleep to fit your work schedule
  • Ways to manipulate light to improve or decrease alertness
  • Stimulants and sedatives
  • Detecting symptoms of possible sleep disorders

Sleep is a biological need for life and health, similar to the need for food.2 Most adults need about 7 to 8 hours of good-quality sleep each day. This means sleep that is long enough to meet individual sleep-length needs and that is not interrupted by frequent arousals or awakenings. As discussed in Module 2, the amount of sleep needed may increase in response to a variety of factors. These can be temporary, such as the need to sleep longer after high physical or cognitive demands and when the body is fighting infectious organisms.

Your own sleep need is genetically determined,3 but the amount of time you spend in bed is under your control. Most short sleep is the result of devoting inadequate time to sleep rather than an inherited trait for short sleep duration. In order to get enough sleep, you need to

  • Make sleep a priority.
  • Organize your home and work life to promote good-quality sleep.
Module: 6, Page 1 of 20