The sleepiness cure


Image: Blend Images Photography | Veer

Everyone knows the jet-lag feeling of dragging through the day without having had enough sleep. Nurses are especially vulnerable to lack of sleep when assigned to shift work.

In fact, so many nurses suffer from sleep deprivation that it has turned into one of the most widespread issues affecting patient care and a nurse’s own health. Without enough sleep, nurses are at increased risk for obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

And really, aside from the jolt provided from multiple cups of java or taking medication prescribed for “shift work sleep disorder,” there is really only one cure for sleepiness: Sleep.

So the next time you’re feeling low on energy before or during your shift, try taking a restorative nap to refresh your senses. The 30-minute investment in your health will pay big dividends in your quality of life.

Here are 5 tips for getting the most out of your nap:

1. If you work day shifts, nap early—before 5 p.m., if possible.
2. Try not to sleep for longer than 30 minutes, or you may have a difficult time falling asleep when you go to bed for your full seven to nine hours.
3. A combination of a nap and a caffeinated drink can help counteract drowsiness. Do avoid unwanted calories, skip the beverage containing sugar and opt for coffee or tea instead.
4. If you work at night, try taking a 30-minute nap before heading out to work, especially if your main sleep was earlier in the day. At work, find a quiet, darkened room where you can lie down for 10 minutes during your break. It will help you feel more alert and awake for the remainder of your shift.
5. If you feel drowsy when driving home, pull over to a rest area and take a short nap. It could save your life.

If you have trouble sleeping, visit the National Sleep Foundation’s website at for advice. You may need to consult your healthcare provider to treat underlying health issues that could be causing your insomnia.

Do you have time to nap? If so, where do you nap? Does your workplace offer adequate facilities for catching some shut-eye or are you forced to camp out on an empty gurney?

Julia Buss
Julia Buss, RN, MS is a nurse with over 20 years experience working in healthcare. She is author of "Your Care Plan," a nurse’s guide to healthy living written especially for nurses to help them take care of themselves as well as others. She is a member of Nightingales Nurses, an international group of nurse activists who work to focus public attention on the behavior of the tobacco industry. She writes regularly on health issues for

    The one mistake every nurse shouldn’t make

    Previous article

    Nurse Mendoza’s 7-point checklist for safe medication administration

    Next article

    You may also like

    More in Scrubs