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Getting enough sleep? Nurses urged to take ‘caffeine naps’ at work

Sleep study expert suggests that the measure could be crucial to nurses’ sleep – especially for those on night shifts – and help improve well-being

Sleep study expert suggests that the measure could be crucial to nurses’ sleep – especially for those on night shifts – and help improve well-being

Nurses who work night shifts should invest in blackout blinds and try to take ‘caffeine naps’ at work to improve their sleep quality, a sleep expert has suggested.

Neil Walsh, professor of sports and sciences at Liverpool John Moores University, who spearheaded a first-of-a-kind study into sleep quality compared to quantity, said the measures were crucial to nurses’ sleep and could even help improve their general health.

Good quality sleep more important than recommended eight hours

The

Sleep study expert suggests that the measure could be crucial to nurses’ sleep – especially for those on night shifts – and help improve well-being

Nurses have been urged to take ‘caffeine naps’ at work
Picture: iStock

Nurses who work night shifts should invest in blackout blinds and try to take ‘caffeine naps’ at work to improve their sleep quality, a sleep expert has suggested.

Neil Walsh, professor of sports and sciences at Liverpool John Moores University, who spearheaded a first-of-a-kind study into sleep quality compared to quantity, said the measures were crucial to nurses’ sleep and could even help improve their general health.

Good quality sleep more important than recommended eight hours

The study, published in the journal Sleep, found that good quality sleep is more important than the recommended seven to nine hours of kip for good general health and keeping illnesses, such as colds, flu and even COVID-19 away. That is good news for nurses who work busy shifts and often do not get eight hours of sleep.

Professor Walsh added that regular exercise and establishing a relaxing bedtime routine – such as going screen-free at least half and hour before bed – would help nurses get the good quality sleep they need.

‘Personalising your sleep routine if you work shifts is important. It’s about adopting that routine so you can feel more sleepy,’ he said.

‘I keep a pad of paper beside my bed to write down any worries or to do lists so that I can then clear my mind before I go to sleep. I'd say that’s probably even more important for shift workers.’

Professor Walsh said that a ‘caffeine nap’ – which is usually drinking coffee before a short, 20-minute nap – can help boost energy. When nurses wake up from the nap, they will likely be at the right point to get a peak in the blood caffeine level, helping with concentration and fatigue levels at work, he added.

Professor Walsh’s tips for a good quality sleep

  • Ensure your bed and pillow are comfortable and that the room is cool, dark and quiet. Ideally, invest in blackout blinds and an eye mask, especially for nurses who are going to sleep during the day
  • Avoid large meals, caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime
  • Drive home with sunglasses on after a night shift
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine – try going screen-free 30 minutes before bedtime and going to bed when sleepy
  • Exercising during the day can help you to help fall asleep
  • Take power naps at work, where possible
  • ‘Caffeine naps’ – this includes drinking a strong cup of coffee and then having a 20 to 30-minute nap.

Naps can potentially reverse ‘inflammatory consequences’

Professor Walsh said those who work shifts are at a higher risk of inflammatory diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, but added naps can potentially reverse these ‘inflammatory consequences’, as well as help compensate for sleep loss while working shifts.

However, nurses have previously said it would be virtually impossible for them to take a restorative power nap during a night shift as breaks are scarce and sleeping at work is frowned on.


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