Audrey Willis http://onlinedegrees.bradley.edu 5m 1,181
The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Health Risks From Lack Of Sleep In The Workplace
A 31-year-old Japanese woman recently died from overworking after she logged 159 hours of overtime in a single month. As a result of her death, many are starting to question the ongoing issue of Japan’s work culture. However, Japan isn’t the only country that faces this issue.
According to the International Labour Organization, Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers. U.S. professions, such as nursing, require employees to work 12-hour shifts and overnights. Although these types of shifts are expected for this occupation, many nurses are exposed to various types of health risks that are associated with prolonged work hours. This is a great visual resource by Bradley University that highlights several tips on how to reduce risk and manage a long-or late-shift schedule.
This infographic is free to publish and share. I’m more than happy to work with you to publish the graphic in a way that works with your site’s formatting as well. To learn more about the importance of managing health risks, especially while working long-hour shifts, view the full infographic below.
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Surviving Long Hours and the Night Shift
Many nurses work 12-hour shifts, and some have to work night shifts. However, all sorts of health risks and dangers are associated with the schedules, not to mention that they are also very difficult. For this reason, it is important to discuss the characteristics of the problem and give tips on how to reduce risk and better manager long or late shift schedule.
Dangers of the night shift.
Lack of sleep can lead to:
- impaired learning ability
- slowed reaction time
- slowed cognitive abilities
- impaired cognitive flexibility
- poor mood and feelings
- impaired communication skills
- suddenly falling asleep
Some errors that can occur:
- Drug Administration inaccuracies
- needle stick injuries
- medical equipment operation and accuracies
Potential strategies for correcting sleepiness:
- taking scheduled shift can have an effect.
- further research suggests allowing nurses to take 1 hour naps during their 12-hour shift in the same way they are allowed to schedule a meal breaks. (NursingTimes)
- caffeine intake can provide a few hours of alertness.
- light has been shown to increase alertness, as well as signal circadian rhythms.
- avoiding sugary foods and beverages can help the crease sleepiness later on (Medscape)
- short periods of exercise, not exceeding 30 minutes, also can help to stay alert.
- avoid consecutive nights.
If sleep is frequently disturbed or individuals experience excessive daytime sleepiness, it is recommended to see a sleep disorder specialist.
- turning up the air conditioner
- increasing volume of the radio music
Statistics of increased workplace risk:
Night shift workers have a 20% higher risk of fatigue-related accidents and errors, and evening workers have a 15% higher risk.
As compared to eight hour shifts, workers on 10 hour shifts have a 13% increase risk for accidents and errors, while those on 12-hour shifts have a 20% increased risk.
According to a 2006 report by full card and Lombardy, “as the number of successive night shifts increase, risk increased by 17% for the third night shift and 36% for the 4th.”
Possible strategies for reducing fatigue related workplace errors or accidents:
- avoiding backward rotations (switching from evening shift to day shift)
- avoiding weekly rotations and implementing rotations every 2 weeks or more
- shift changes several times per week, rather than on a weekly basis
- pairing employees to work together, rather than on their own
Encourage taking naps during work shifts by implementing policies that allow them, including process is to awaken napping workers, providing satisfactory napping environments and schedule and sufficient staff to cover for napping.
Night shift workers have increased risk of certain health problems.
A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reported the following:
- employees who have worked for 15 years or more are at greater risk for dying of lung cancer.
- “women who have worked rotating night shifts for 5 years experience shorter life spans in general but also have an increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.” (Huffington)
- sleep Disorders include insomnia and excessive sleeping.
- other health problems include metabolic syndrome symptoms: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, large waistline circumference, high levels of glucose. (APA)
- sleep deprivation can be a strong factor in obesity, glucose intolerance or diabetes and changes in neuroendocrine control of appetite.
- and increased risk for breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men has been associated with night shift work, believed to be due to light exposure at night.
You can avoid night shift related health problems by preserving your circadian rhythms. Number one is a regular sleep pattern. Sleeping during the day comes with obvious difficulties.
Tips for sleeping: Invest and blackout drapes and earplugs. Get an adequate amount of sleep. Drink caffeine but not enough that it disrupts your sleep.
- from Latin, “Circa diem” means “about a day.”
- “circadian rhythms serve to temporarily program The Daily sequence of metabolic and behavioral changes.” (Academic)
- internal biological clock moves its course regardless of time such as alternating between light and darkness. This “’ ‘ is located in the hypothalamus suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN).
- for most individuals on a 24 hour clock, it is more difficult to advance the clock then it is to delay it.
- melatonin is an indicator of a shift and timing of the central clock.
- if a night shift worker returning home is exposed to strong warning light, his or her biological clock has greater difficulty adapting. (Academic)
- diurnal preference, defined as the preferred timing of sleep and waking activities and individual differences” also influences how individuals adapt to changes in their environment.
- night owls are much better at delaying their biological clock, and locks have a greater tendency to advance.
- the circadian clock is thought to be a tumor suppressor. (Academic)
- a recent analysis found that less than 3% of permanent night shift workers had completely adapted their circadian rhythm, and less than 25% to a position of receiving some benefit from the shift.
- Charmaine Eastman, PhD, a physiological psychologist at Rush University in Chicago, has identified a possible strategy for adapting to night shift work:
- during a shift, workers would be exposed to intervals of bright light and wear sunglasses on their way home from a night shift. However, it is impossible for circadian rhythmsto fully adapt to ships that are constantly switching from night to day work. (APA)
The hormone melatonin can act 2 delay an advanced circadian rhythms. “light treatment during the first half of biological night prior to melatonin Peak will delay circadian rhythms and during the latter half, after the melatonin peak, will advance rhythms. Melatonin treatment by contrast advances rhythms in the first half of the biological night and delays them in the latter half.” (Oxford Academic)
Why would nurses choose to work night shifts?
- opportunity to gain more experience because of less competition with other coworkers
- fewer disruptions from management or coworkers
- more employment opportunities
- fewer meetings
- shorter commute because of less traffic
- competitive pay