Specific characteristics among nurses doing shift work can directly affect their sleep quality and risk of burnout, according to Italian researchers.
Being female and personal burnout were found to be significantly associated with impaired sleep quality, said study authors from the University of L’Aquila.
“Sleep disorders and burnout appear to be related”
In addition, they found that working in a psychiatric setting, working a long cycle shift pattern and experiencing “daytime dysfunction” were significantly associated with burnout.
The researchers also observed that patient-related – as opposed to work-related – burnout significantly affected job performance, though they found no link between performance and sleep quality.
They noted that, although sleep disorders and burnout had been thoroughly investigated in recent years, little was known about the relationship between them or their effect on performance.
The researcher’s study, published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, involved 315 shift-work nurses working across 39 wards in seven central Italian hospitals.
They used the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, Copenhagen Burnout Inventory and Job Performance Scale to investigate any possible relationship between sleep disorders, burnout and performance.
“Higher levels of burnout found on nurses who worked in psychiatric areas”
Of the participants, 52.1% were found to suffer from poor sleep quality and 31.4% showed the presence of burnout.
The researchers found shift pattern and work setting were “significantly associated with burnout” but acknowledged that the “very nature of nursing activities can produce stressful conditions”.
“Nurses who worked a long-shift pattern showed higher levels of burnout than those nurses who followed a short-shift pattern,” they said in their journal paper.
“Most likely, longer shifts (six consecutive work days or more) produce negative effects because of the longer exposure to patients and to the hospital environment,” the study authors noted.
They added: “In terms of work setting, significant differences were observed with the higher levels of burnout found on nurses who worked in psychiatric areas.”
The researchers said their results on sleep echoed previous studies that found nurses who habitually slept less than six hours a day were more vulnerable to burnout than those who slept for longer.
Prior research also indicated that nurses who worked 10-12 hour shifts were more likely to experience sleep disorders and were more inclined to ask for shorter or longer periods of sick leave. The finding may feed into the long-running debate on eight hour versus 12 hour shifts.
- Nurses more likely to be absent from work after 12-hour shifts
- Rise in potentially risky 12‐hour shifts among nursing staff
- Significant rise in popularity of longer shifts among nurses
Based on their analysis, the authors said their results clearly showed there was a “circular relationship between burnout and sleep quality, mediated by the effects of personal burnout on impaired sleep quality and of daytime dysfunction on the presence of total burnout”.
They stated: “Sleep disorders and burnout appear to be related, but only the latter seems to have adverse effects on the job performance of nurses.
“Sleep quality appears to be worse in women than in men, while working in the psychiatric setting, working a long cycle shift pattern and experiencing daytime dysfunction showed to be significantly associated with burnout,” they said.
The researchers said their evidence provided managers with evidence to suggest they could “intervene with measures to promote nurse’s health, wellbeing and safety”.