SLEEP DEBT- BURDEN FOR NIGHT SHIFT NURSES

9 May

By: http://www.skybluecross.org
Sleep is a basic human physiological need. It is the resting state of the body wherein most functions of the whole body system are shut or slowed down temporarily to regain power and energy. The human body is naturally set to be on sleep mode during night time based on the biological clock (circadian rhythm).  On the other hand, there are instances that the sleeping pattern becomes disturbed. This is common among individuals who remain active until late night. Most of these people are those who have night shift occupation.
<br />Nurses are some of the individuals affected by biological clock disturbance. Their work time usually varies as they have shifting duty schedule. The irregularity of their sleeping pattern is the primary contributing factor to their sleep problem. At times, nurses are on 12 hour daytime work. They also have the night shift by which nurses have their work during the evening until early morning.

Eventually, night shift nurses sleep during the day. However, studies had revealed that they are sleep deprived compared to day shift nurses. This is associated by experts to the circadian rhythm. The body is used to be active during daytime and at rest during the night. Hence, a complete 8 hour sleep during the day is mostly not possible. As a result, the body is subjected to sleep debt or sleep deprivation.
<br />A person who lacks sleep mostly manifests symptoms like sleepiness, fatigue, headache, poor concentration and decreased mental alertness. These make night shift nurses prone on committing errors or becoming less efficient with their work. Some nurses claim that their biological clock already adapted to the daytime sleeping pattern. However, the circadian rhythm is set according to external stimuli and internal changes in the body. During night, the body releases melatonin that gives the feeling of sleepiness. This hormone decreases during the day. The body also makes light and environmental temperature as basis whether it is daytime or nighttime. In fact, it is conducive !
to sleep
when the surrounding is dark and cold, which mostly happens at night.
<br />This means that even if nurses would say they do not feel sleepy during the night shift, they surely experience moments by which their eyes are nearly dropping or their heads are heavy. There are times as well when they suddenly can’t comprehend what they are reading, writing or what their colleagues are telling them. These are short periods by which the brain attempts to rest. This is the work of the circadian rhythm.
<br />Sleep debt symptoms can only be corrected by sleeping adequately. This means that one has to sleep according to the number of hours one had missed sleeping. In the case of nurses, this is quite difficult to correct. From time to time, their work hours change depending on their shift for the day. Hence, sleep deprivation is part of the package for serving as a nurse, particularly for those who are usually assigned on night shift. Besides, it is also not possible to put all nurses on daytime shift because health care is a 24-hour need.

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