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Researchers find sleep disorders common among nurses

Photo: AaronAmat/iStockphoto

San Antonio — Nearly 1 in 3 nurses may suffer from insomnia, while more than 1 in 8 admit to taking medications to help them stay awake, according to a recent study.

Researchers from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center conducted an online survey of 1,165 nurses at a tertiary care medical center. They found that 31% of participants experienced symptoms of chronic insomnia, while 13% said they used medications to stay awake. Additionally, 49% said they averaged less than seven hours of sleep a night, with the overall average registering at 6.6 hours. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults sleep seven to nine hours a night.

Other findings:

  • 31% of nurses reported symptoms of shift work disorder, a condition caused by working night or rotating shifts during the hours when people normally sleep.
  • 27% used medications to help them sleep.
  • 18.5% had a moderate-to-severe risk for obstructive sleep apnea.
  • 4.5% said they experience excessive daytime sleepiness.

The researchers note that, each year, 100,000 deaths in U.S. hospitals are attributed to medical errors, and sleep disorders and deprivation are “significant contributors.”


“Nurses are at an increased risk for circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders such as shift work disorder,” Dr. Francis Christian, lead author and second-year fellow at the OU Health Sciences Center, said in a June 7 press release. “Recognition needs to take place so that we can screen appropriately and make scheduling modifications to help alleviate the burden of shift work disorder among nurses.”

The study was published online April 12 in the journal Sleep.

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