Why Good Sleep Is Essential As A Nurse (And How To Get More Of It)

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Good sleep is important no matter what profession you are in, but when you are working 13-hour shifts and nights, getting good sleep is essential. Below we look at why good sleep is essential as a nurse and how to get more of it. 

nurse burnout

What Counts As Good Sleep?

Before we get into the benefits of good sleep as a nurse, it is important to understand what good sleep is. Experts state that good sleep is anywhere between 7-10 hours, but this doesn’t mean sleeping for 10 hours each night constitutes good sleep. If you wake up often, or find yourself still waking up tired, it may be because you are sleeping too long, or that you have a health problem. 

Things like snoring can impact how well we sleep and can be a sign of something more serious, such as sleep apnea. If you drink alcohol, it may be that you have slept for 10 hours but your body was busy metabolizing that alcohol, meaning your sleep quality won’t be as good. 

More Concentration

Nursing requires a lot of concentration and brain function, as you can be caring for several patients at once, as well as getting medication ready and helping doctors with other tests. Without good sleep, we are less able to maintain concentration and are more forgetful, as our minds struggle to keep up. 

Working as a nurse and staying alert for 12- or 13-hour shifts is not easy and you cannot let your guard down. If you want to have the best judgment and stay alert, good sleep is essential for caring for your patients as best as you can, without burning out. 

Caffeine is a nurse’s best friend, and it can help in terms of concentration if you haven’t had enough sleep or you’re just plain exhausted. 

However, while coffee may help at the time, too much caffeine can actually harm how well you sleep, especially if you drink any in the afternoon or too close to bedtime. On average, caffeine can stay in your system between 4 and 6 hours, meaning that fizzy drinks or coffee near the end of your shift could be impacting how well you sleep at night. 

Less Burnout

Nurses are at high risk of burn out and not getting enough sleep will only increase this risk. As nurses must be there for patients physically, mentally, and emotionally, this can take a toll on your overall energy levels, not leaving much left for yourself. Add this to a day full of emergencies and a restless sleep the night before and you have a recipe for burnout.

A good amount of sleep each night can improve how well you handle situations and how much things impact you mentally and emotionally. We all know how much easier it is to lose your temper or get emotional when you are exhausted, so adding this to the mix can increase your risk of burnout. 

If you do feel like you are hitting the point of burnout, speak to your employer or take a few minutes for yourself. 

Better Mental Health 

Good and bad sleep can impact your mental health and vice versa. When you struggle to sleep, this can be an endless cycle of feeling down and exhausted. As a nurse, you have to have some kind of emotional resilience, otherwise, it can be very hard to remain professional and not let the job get you down. 

When your mental health is suffering, it can impact your job. Good quality sleep and having enough sleep will improve your mental health and make it easier to cope with the bad days. It can also lead to you feeling more energetic and positive. 

Less Sick Days

Poor sleep can lead to your body not working as it should. Add this to the pressures of working in a hospital and being surrounded by sick patients and you are more likely to become ill. If you often get sick and also don’t sleep well, this could be a huge factor. 

An exhausted body is one that is less able to fight off bugs and infections, meaning you are more likely to become ill while working. 

Not only do sick days affect your wallet, but they also can have an impact on your employer and your patients. Sick days are inevitable and you should not feel guilty if you need time to rest and recuperate, but checking in on your sleep quality could help you get sick less often. 

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How To Get More Sleep As A Nurse

Being a nurse and getting enough sleep can sound like an impossible task. With long shifts and night working, finding a sleep routine can be difficult. Getting enough sleep is one of the most important things you can do and if this means having a quieter social life or passing up on a night out, don’t be afraid to say no. 

There are several ways you can improve your sleep as a nurse, the first thing is to make your house a quiet and dark environment, especially if you are trying to sleep after a night shift. This may mean investing in some blackout curtains. 

If nursing is affecting your mental health, this could be why you are struggling to sleep. Being a nurse can take a toll, so it is important to talk to someone if you are struggling. This could be your employer, a therapist, or a close friend or family member. 

Invest in a good quality mattress and bedding and turn off technology before bed. Develop a healthy sleep routine and try other forms of relaxation to help get you in the mood for sleep, such as yoga or meditation. 

Burnout can happen at any time and can be more likely if you are also studying at the same time. Studying online can help busy nurses to find time around their work and sleep schedule to study. Baylor University’s online DNP programs offer you the chance to study around your commitments, meaning you’ll be able to make more time for sleep.  

Being a nurse is no easy job and not getting enough sleep can only contribute to stress and burnout. If you are struggling with sleep, look at how you can improve your bedtime routine today.

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