5 Tips for the Nurse with Insomnia

Story---Megaphone-11-2016-484x252-PNGIf you have worked 12 hour shifts long enough, you begin to convince yourself that you really do not require more than a few hours of sleep to function. Perhaps your plan is to “catch up” on your days off. The fact is, a tired nurse can be a dangerous nurse. The American Nurse’s Association ANA President Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN states, “research shows that prolonged work hours can hinder a nurse’s performance and have negative impacts on patients’ safety.” “We’re concerned not only with greater likelihood for errors, diminished problem solving, slower reaction time and other performance deficits related to fatigue, but also with dangers posed to nurses’ own health.” The following are a few tips for the nurse insomniac.

Cell Phone Usage

Leave your cell phone charging on the other side of your room or in another room all together. A 2014 study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that usage of ipads in bed reduced the level of melatonin in the body and that participants felt tired and less alert the following morning despite having eight hours of sleep. Czeisler and Chang, coauthors of the study, warned of the long term health implications when melatonin levels are continually suppressed including increased risk for some kinds of cancer, obesity, and diabetes.

Sleep Environment

Be sure to make your sleep environment as cozy as possible. Temperature, light, and sound are three essentials to be mindful of. A cool, dark, and quiet environment is conducive to a good night’s sleep. Dr. Christopher Winter, Neurologist and Sleep Specialist says, “most studies agree that a temperature between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal for sleeping, with temperatures above 75 degrees and below 54 degrees disruptive to sleep.”

Caffeine Intake

I began to sleep better after eliminating just one of my three caffeinated teas from my daily routine. I simply switched my afternoon caffeinated tea for the decaffeinated equivalent. Experts recommend avoiding caffeine after the early afternoon to prevent sleep disturbances. Try it for one week or two and notice if it helps. 

Essential Oils

I can not write enough about the calming benefits of lavender. I wear it, drink it in my tea, and diffuse it. One study looked at the effect of lavender had on promoting deep sleep in otherwise healthy sleepers and found that those exposed to the scent of lavender slept more soundly. Try diffusing 3 to 4 drops of lavender oil in your bedroom at night before bed. 

Warm Bath

A warm bath relaxes even the most resistant and achy body. It is perfect just before bed if you have the time. Add Epsom Salts for added relaxation. According to Joyce Walsleben, associate professor at New York University School of Medicine, taking a warm bath before bed (approximately 2 hours) has been proven to contribute to a deeper sleep.

In addition, experts recommend a regular exercise routine and avoiding alcohol and heavy meals before bed. Avoid vigorous exercise just before bed. Opt instead for a gentle yoga class or quiet meditation. Here’s to a better night’s sleep. Sweet dreams, nurse friends!!

Lori is an American nurse and yogini living in Gothenburg, Sweden. She contributes regularly to Mighty Nurse, AWHONN, American Nurse Today, and has been featured in The Huffington Post. Follow her adventures through Neonurse or on Instagram.


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