Nurses who work night shifts could be putting themselves and their patients in danger because they are more likely to suffer from sleep deprivation, warn US researchers.
After surveying 289 nurses, who worked night shifts in hospital settings, researchers from the University of Alabama concluded that 56% were sleep deprived.
The authors said: 'Reduction in the amount of sleep predisposes individuals to sleep deprivation, resulting in poor psychomotor performance. This has been associated with an increase in error, which can be translated into an unsafe working environment.'
But Bernie Cottam, professional nurse advisor for acute care at the RCN, said: 'Night shifts are part and parcel of nursing and nurses are well aware of the health and safety issues. They also know how important it is to get proper rest between shifts.
'Exercise, nutrition and hydration are all important in aiding rest. But nurses must also make sure that they take proper breaks, which should be rostered in when doing night shifts.'
Results of the study were presented today at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Minneapolis, Minnesota.