12 hour shifts affect sleeping patterns – but not error rates

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Research has found that nurses working 12 hour rotational shifts had less sleep and more disrupted sleep than their counterparts working 8 hour shifts.

The research, conducted by Dr Ann Rheaume RN from Canada’s University of Moncton, assessed 28 nurses working the two different rotational shifts, and assessed their sleep and performance using actigraphy, a sleep diary and an after work questionnaire.

The study found that nurses who worked 12 hour shifts had less total sleep time and less sleep efficiency than those working 8 hour days. They also found that those on 12 hour shifts tended to nap more than their counterparts.

The study wasn’t all bad news for 12 hour shift nurses though. The study found no evidence of differences between 12 hour and 8 hour nurses when it came to cognitive errors. The study thus concluded that there was no evidence to indicate that an increase of cognitive errors could be associated with differing shift lengths.

So there you have it! If you’re the kind of nurse or midwife who loves a good 12 hour shift, just know that while you might be affecting your sleeping patterns, your ability to do your work shouldn’t be too badly affected – according to these researchers at least!


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