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Let's nap on nights: but not in the bath

  • Comments (8)

When one of my nursing friends was on nights she used to have a sleep in one of the ward baths during her break.

We still laugh about it today as a piece of typically mad behaviour. But maybe it was not so mad after all.

In this week’s practice articles there is a discussion about research on the benefits of napping at night during night shift work.

The results suggest that restorative napping may be helpful in improving energy, mood and decision-making.

All nurses will be familiar with the struggle of staying alert and energised during a long and sometimes interminable night shift. Whenever the clocks go forward I always give a thought to the poor night staff who are having to work an extra hour.

As a newly qualified staff nurse I remember doing a pattern of nights that was seven nights on and six days off.

As the nights went on I would feel more and more exhausted and cut off from the world - living in a special night shift bubble where nothing happened other than me desperately trying to stay asleep when all my flatmates were awake and daring to talk.

In those days I had a duvet cover with a paisley pattern and sometimes during my night shift, when a wave of tiredness would hit, I could see the pattern before my eyes. I imagine that a restorative nap during the night would have helped to clear that pattern from my eyes and enabled me to function at a more optimal level.

Restorative napping could be the way forward - but let’s find a better place to have a kip than the ward bath.

  • Comments (8)

Readers' comments (8)

  • Why was this seen as mad at all? Ever since I have Nursed, most places I have been to have had some facility (even if it was just the staff room with an old mattress thrown down) for staff to have naps on night time breaks. In the majority of places this was seen as normal and healthy, as we cannot function in such a demanding environment when tired. There have been one or two places that did not allow it, but that was instantly changed (by me) when I was on shift. It is healthy to rest, it is as simple as that. I even gave one non clinical manager short thrift when she dared to try and lay down the law on us and impose timed 15 minute breaks instead of allowing the staff to get their head down for an hour. The evidence is now starting to stack up to support that, that's all. But we have always known it to be true, or we have as long as I have been in the game. What would be infinitely more helpful is a culture change that did not allow Nurses to do so many night shifts in a row and actively put our health and well being to the forefront of rota planning!

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  • I never used to sleep on my break at night at the start of my career but found sleeping more and more necessary as the years went on! I believe some research says night shift workers don't live as long- what does that tell you? It's a horrible, horrible feeling being on nights and struggling to stay awake and errors are more likely at times of extreme tiredness so anything that helps people feel more refreshed is surely to be applauded. After all, people are not paid for their breaks- why not let them sleep? Needless to say, I do a Monday to Friday daytime job now....
    And by the way, the night shift when the clocks go forward is the one you want to get- you work an hour less!

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  • Kathryn Godfrey

    Yes research does show a negative impact on health from shift work but perhaps napping may help in some way to mitigate against that effect.

    Whoops yes you are right -- have got my spring forward and fall back etc mixed up. Thanks, have changed it now.

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  • tinkerbell

    Does absolutely everything under the sun need to be researched. What about if i hit my toe with a hammer will it hurt?

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  • Ellen Watters

    I always used to try and grab a nap on my breaks when on nights .. Some nurses would and others wouldn't. We used to put a few chairs together in the staff room and snuggle up with a blanket, lights out and zzzzzzzzzzz.

    In the days when you used to have to stand to attention when the nursing officer came on to the ward and take your cardigan off and straighten your hat, I remember nodding off at the nurses station, it could only have been for 5 minutes or so but I remember coming to and seeing the nursing officer standing over me.. eeeekkkkk I stood up flustered trying to throw my cardi off and look wide awake.. Not sure if I carried it off.. *sigh* those were the days eh..

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  • I think that having a nap on the break during the night shift is very beneficial. It helps to restore and to keep you mind fresh. This could reduce mistakes and help to stay alert and active all night long. I am working nights for 3 years as a health care assistant and I can see how one hour nap changes my ability to think comparing to the time then I miss that break.

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  • Anonymous

    I did my training back in the 1970s. The weekly hours were reduced from 42 to 40 (I think). To fit the new hours in, night staff - including students - were allowed a one hour sleeping break during the night. Officially we were supposed to go to a staff room some distance from the ward. Unofficially, we found a corner of the day room, a space in the bathroom, an empty bed (we did have them in those days!) to sleep. We always felt better for it.

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  • Anonymous

    I developed a working at night guidance for the service I worked for in Sheffield Teaching Hospitals that was multidisciplinery not just nurses and midwives; afterall doctors also work night shifts.
    The guidance encouraged staff to do all the things above in the article. It also removed the curiosity and ambiguity for staff about sleeping during your break, which in the NHS is unpaid - we can question can any employer tell you what you can do when they are not paying you?!
    It is about upholding your duty to be safe to your patients & your employer - if you need a nap do it in your break!
    I can remember the days of the linen cupboard, day room & the cape - no-one ver criticised you even the nursing officers - key was know your patients, deliver the care, have no pressure sores/falls and your sleeping during your unpaid break was never questioned in fact it was almost part of the expected culture

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