One of the stress management techniques discussed in our blog about Stress Awareness Month (April) was getting a good night’s sleep. But for nurses, getting to sleep can be even more challenging when your work pattern is not the typical 9 to 5, you are working 12 hour shifts (during the day or night), and you have physically and emotionally demanding workloads.
But a good night’s sleep should not be considered a luxury, it should be a priority. Insufficient sleep has been associated with cognitive problems, mood alterations, reduced job performance, reduced motivation, increased safety risks, and physiological changes (Rogers, 2008).
If you find yourself having difficulty falling asleep, we have compiled a list of tips you might find helpful to incorporate into your routine:
Eliminate environmental stressors
This can be more difficult sometimes if you work nights, but try having blackout curtains or blinds to eliminate light coming into the bedroom, ask other people in your household to be considerate and reduce general noise levels, and put a note on the door asking people not to ring the bell if possible so as not to disturb you
Establish a bedtime routine
Routine can help us wind down and prepare for sleep. Routines don’t have to be long winded – take a warm shower or bath, perform a skincare routine, or simply have a warm drink and read a few pages of a book. Whatever works for you!
Exercise – but time it right!
As well as helping to improve muscle tone, increase stamina, prevent disease, and improve mental health, physical activity has also been found to improve sleep quality and duration. But some people find exercising before bedtime stimulating and have trouble sleeping, others might be so tired they fall into bed and drop right off to sleep. Find what works for you.
Use a meditation or bedtime app
This should be an audio version only as blue light emitted from phones and tablets can delay the release of melatonin – the hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. The practice of meditation and other relaxation techniques can help to relax the mind – helpful if you have had a very busy shift or tend to think a lot when there are no distractions
Don’t eat just before bed
Eating right before bed can keep you up because your body is still working to digest your food when it should be resting. Try to finish your last meal 2-3 hours before bedtime.
Limit caffeinated products before sleep
Caffeine is a stimulant that can be useful to provide a boost in energy levels. But energy levels can be increased for around 5 hours so try to only use them during the first half of your day, or the first half of your night shift, so you are not still experiencing the effects near bedtime
Avoid alcohol before bed
Although it may seem tempting after a hard day’s work, drinking alcohol can alter the quality of sleep you have. A different option could be drinking herbal tea which has been specifically formulated for bedtime use.
Use of aromatherapy
Essential oils have been used for centuries to promote relaxation and mental and physical wellness. Oils such as lavender, rose, geranium, vanilla, and jasmine have qualities that can promote relaxation, reduce anxiety, and aid sleep. Have a reed diffuser in your bedroom or create your own room or pillow spray using diluted essential oils.
Establish a regular sleep cycle
Probably one of the hardest for nurses especially to accomplish! But if you, going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time every night creates routine, and your body will start to recognise when it is time for sleep. Consistency is key with this one though!
Why not try some of these techniques tonight? Sweet dreams!
Rogers AE. The Effects of Fatigue and Sleepiness on Nurse Performance and Patient Safety. In: Hughes RG, editor. Patient Safety and Quality: An Evidence-Based Handbook for Nurses. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2008 Apr. Chapter 40. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK2645/