Many Americans aren’t getting enough sleep, but for nurses it’s especially important. Studies show that sleep-deprived nurses are more likely to make errors or poor clinical decisions on the job — which can literally be a matter of life or death.
According to a January 2014 article in the American Journal of Critical Care, nurses lacking sleep were more likely than those without a sleep deficit to regret clinical choices made during their shift. So beyond the personal toll of sleep deprivation, nurses have their patient care to think of too. Plus, you always want to put your best foot forward on assignment and protect your license.
If you’re not nodding off the way you’d like to, here are some tips for getting enough sleep on assignment:
Try to Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule
This is tricky, especially for night nurses who are already battling their Circadian rhythm. But whatever your sleep reality, try to make it a regular one. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day — or as close as you possibly can — even on your days off. This will help your body get into a habit, which will grease the wheels for good sleep. You should shoot for 7-9 hours each “night.” If you have a shift change coming up, alter your schedule in increments so you don’t shock your body.
Turn Off Your Tech
It might be tempting to crawl into bed with your smartphone or tablet, but resist the urge! Make the bedroom a no-way zone for phones, tablets, laptops, and TVs. The light from your TV and devices is a notorious melatonin disruptor and should be avoided at bedtime.
Avoid Caffeine After a Certain Hour
Oh, coffee — the nectar of the Gods! It helps you get up and at ‘em, but you want to avoid it after a certain hour or it could keep you from restful sleep. The rule of thumb for people with “regular” schedules is no coffee after lunch. But as a nurse, your hours often vary outside the bounds of 8-5, so you should adjust accordingly and try not to have any coffee within 7-9 hours of bedtime.
Manipulate the Light
Bright light is a huge influence on your body; it says “Wake up!” If you wake up a little groggy, open the curtains to get yourself going. And on the flipside, wear some shades on a sunny drive home and do your best to lay down to sleep in a dark, cool room.
We hope these tips for getting enough sleep on assignment have you sawing logs in no time. Please share any good sleep practices for nurses in the comments!