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Shift Work Disorder

Trick or Treat?

Are you getting enough sleep? Nurses work long shifts early shifts and in some cases the night shift. As a nurse, you may suffer many sleep disturbances including shift work disorder. As a busy nurse mom, you want to be there for your children sometimes at the cost of not getting enough sleep. According to the American College of Chest Physicians (2017) shift work disorder is a circadian rhythm sleep disorder that is a result of working long or irregular hours. Characteristics of Shift work disorder:

· Irritability

· Unsatisfactory work/home life performance

· Health issues

As a nurse, you need to get enough sleep to provide safe and effective patient care. Additionally, you need to get enough sleep to be the best mother as well. So how can you avoid shift work disorder? You need to decide to treat yourself to sleep and stop tricking your body into believing you got enough sleep. Here are 5 ways I avoid the dreaded shift work disorder and feel well-rested.

1. Keep a sleep diary

Write down 2 weeks in a journal… I like a pretty journal. Journal when you start to sleep and when you wake up from sleep and calculate how many hours you slept for each week. This helps you get your baseline sleep hours per week.

According to the national sleep foundation guidelines, adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night that is roughly 50-60 hours of sleep per week. If you are not reaching this goal you may start to feel some of the effects of shift work disorder. These symptoms may not come on instantly but may occur gradually.

2. Set the mood for sleep

Getting your bedroom ready means making it inviting for sleep. As a night shift nurse or off shift nurse sleeping during the day it is imperative to sleep well. I find this breathable weighted blanket amazingly effective.

The blanket does not make me sweat but gives me just enough of a hug to fall asleep and stay asleep. In many cases, a weighted blanket can improve your sleep pattern immensely. There is not enough research to definitively say that weighted blankets are proven to improve sleep, but some studies have shown they do reduce anxiety. This reduction in anxiety can be very soothing and help many people sleep deeper and longer.

3. Have a sleep regimen

As a mom, you know the importance of having a sleep regimen for your children when they were young. I found a bath, book, peanut butter & jelly sandwich, and warm milk was helpful in getting my boys to sleep.

It seemed anytime I would say it is bedtime they would come up with an excuse not to sleep. The energy that was put into getting children to sleep is the same as needed to get yourself to sleep. It is essential to put down phones and computers before bedtime. This is because the mind needs to rest before sleep. It is helpful to meditate, quiet the mind, and relax the body before sleep.

4. Eat a healthy diet

Good nutrition also plays a key role in getting enough sleep. Using the healthy plate guideline is a good reference to how a plate should look. That includes half of your meal plate should include fruit and vegetables.

One-fourth of the plate should be a lean protein and one-fourth of the plate a healthy grain or starch. Once your eating has improved it is also important to remember not to eat snacks 2-3 hours before bedtime. To get a good night's sleep your digestive system should not be continuously working. These are considerations for those without glycemic control issues or other medical conditions that require you to follow your MD orders and eat at night-time.

5. Exercise

Exercise is important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I always tell people if you cannot move your legs then move your arms and vice versa. It is essential for your body to stay active and engage in some sort of exercise daily. But you may ask how does exercise enhance your sleep.

Exercise can improve total sleep time and increase tiredness by reducing stress. With less stress, the body can adapt to bedtime better.

Sweet dreams

Den Hartog, K., Jansen, M. J., Godfredsen, M., & Burch, E. (2019). The Use of Weighted Blankets in Patients with Anxiety.

Wickwire, E., Geiger-Brown, J., Scharf, S., & Drake, C. (2017). Shift Work and Shift Work Sleep Disorder, Clinical and Organizational Perspectives. Chest, 151(5), 1156–1172. Retrieved from

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