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NIOSH Training for Nurses on Shift Work and Long Work Hours

Sleep (Continued)

Most night nurses want to resume a daytime schedule on days off so that they can be with their families, enjoy daytime activities, and sleep at night in the dark. When you make this adjustment from night work to night sleep one or more times per week, you can suffer a perpetual state of jet lag.

Instead, try working out a compromise sleep schedule that has been suggested by scientists to keep your sleep times more consistent.5,6,8 On nights when you work, you should sleep as soon as you get home (for example, 8 a.m.) and sleep as long as you can. On days off, try to stay up until the middle of the night (3-4 a.m.), and sleep until noon or 1 p.m. That way, your body always has some hours of sleep that are the same every 24-hour period (for example, 8 a.m. to noon is always a sleep time, on both work and rest days).

If you work the night shift, you are already predisposed to sleeping fewer hours per week than if you worked during the day, so try to sleep as much as possible whenever you have the opportunity. This could include napping.

You may be tempted to stay up all day before your first night shift in a block of night shifts, and then work all night. Similarly, after your last night shift, you might be tempted to stay up the entire next day and then go to bed at night. In both cases, you will be awake for too many hours; this will increase your risk for accidents and injuries in the short term, as well as chronic sleep deprivation and associated health risks in the long term.

Module: 9, Page 6 of 12