Nursing Blogs

Shocker: New Report States Nurses Aren’t Getting Enough Sleep


Adults need anywhere from seven to nine hours of sleep every night. It’s crucial when it comes to replenishing your physical and mental health. If you don’t get enough sleep, it can lead to memory issues and poor decision making, two skills nurses need to do their jobs.

A recent survey from the National Sleep Foundation shows nurses get on average 414 minutes of sleep, which is less than seven hours, before a workday and 497, just over eight hours of sleep, before non-workdays. But the body can’t make up for lost hours of sleep by sleeping more the next day. Short sleep durations were associated with lower quality patient care.

Working a 12-hour shift on less than seven hours of sleep can leave nurses exhausted. Some are even having trouble staying awake at work.

“Super hard to stay awake doing home health on nights [when] everyone’s asleep. The house is dark. You’re supposed to stay quiet. I couldn’t do it anymore,” said Ashton.

“One girl I worked with dozed off and [her] head smacked the desk,” said Jenny.

Some said nurses should be able to catch some z’s on the job if it improves their work performance. “Better to let a coworker rest than to have them make a tragic mistake where we are all tied up in litigation,” Nancy commented.

Everyone agreed that sleeping on the job is unacceptable, especially when someone else’s life is at stake. But sometimes supervisors can be understanding. 

“Once my supervisor asked me to do an overtime shift on a Sunday for stock take at 6 a.m. I nodded off for literally 5 mins and my supervisor caught me. I took the telling off and said sorry (the night before, I went to see my mother in a chapel of rest so I didn’t sleep at all) I didn’t explain this to my supervisor though. It was my fault, but he was awesome,” said Lisa. “He was firm but fair and throughout all my illnesses, dizzy spells, and hospital admissions, he had my back.”

“Half the aides and our agency nurses have been caught sleeping,” said Shannon. “So unprofessional.”

Others suggested getting up and going for a walk if you find yourself nodding off. “I just have to get up and walk around or talk my coworkers to death until they hide from me!” Christy joked.

But lots of nurses barely have time to eat, let alone take a nap. “I barely have time to wolf down a sandwich at my desk while charting,” said Paul. “Please tell me where this paradise is where I have time to sleep!”

If you’re having trouble staying awake at work, you might be suffering from an underlying medical condition.

“I have been a night shift nurse for almost 40 years. If you are constantly sleepy even though you get enough sleep (and/ or coffee) look deeply into a medical cause,” said Fran. “About 20 years ago, after many frustrating episodes of nodding off even though I had gotten enough sleep, I saw an eye doctor. It turns out I had strabismus and lazy eye… the constant eye strain when I would read or use the computer actually fatigued my entire body. A simple eye muscle resection solved the problem!”

Stress, trauma, visual distractions, alcohol, and other medical conditions can affect your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Do your best to turn in early when you have to work the next day. Your patients and coworkers will be that much better off.

Steven Briggs
Steven Briggs is a healthcare writer for Scrubs Magazine, hailing from Brooklyn, NY. With both of his parents working in the healthcare industry, Steven writes about the various issues and concerns facing the industry today.

    Hate Your Commute? It Might Be Good for Your Mental Health

    Previous article

    School Nurse Delivers Baby in Elementary School

    Next article

    You may also like