According to a recent study from Oregon State University, nurses who work the night shift are more like to report stress and sleep disturbances. They also have more reported incidences of psychological and physical health symptoms, including PTSD, insomnia, and inflammation.
The study involved 392 nurses who were required to report their sleep experiences in daily diaries for 14 days, including duration, quality, and nightmare severity. Blood samples were taken at the halfway point to test for inflammation and general immune response.
Researchers found that participants fell into three categories. 80.4% reported good overall sleep, 11.2% had poor overall sleep, and 8.4% were in the “nightmares only” group with mostly average sleep but above-average levels of nightmare severity.
The nurses in the poor sleep group were more likely to be recent night-shift workers than those in the good overall sleep class. These people reported worse sleep quality, more PTSD, depression, insomnia, anxiety, and more perceived stress.
The study was performed in 2017, which was before the pandemic, so researchers believe that these symptoms may have become even more exacerbated. Jesse Dietch, co-author of the study, said, “The pandemic has really highlighted the importance of caring for our caregivers, and I think sleep is an important place to look for doing that.”
Future research will focus on how to prevent adverse sleep effects for shift-working nurses, including individual-level interventions and stabilizing schedules for shift workers.
But it isn’t just nurses that should be proactive about their sleep, mental health, and brain function. With rising stress levels and disrupted sleep schedules throughout the pandemic, many people are feeling the side effects.
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