Posted by: Tango | 2011-11-22

Permanent Night Duty

I am a Nursing Sister and work 4 nights a week. I have done this for two and a half years. I used to have to use Stilnox to sleep in the day as I find it difficult to sleep well. I stopped them about a month ago as I really do not want to continue indefinitely. My questios are as follows:
1. I sleep very lightly and wake often in the day. I will get maybe 3 hours uninterrupted sleep max between about 10am and three thirty pm. I am able to work a full 12 hour stretch without feeling too tired. How bad is this? ( My 3 nights off I sleep better.)

2. I find that I suffer from a lot of aches - painfull muscles, joints and even my bones feel sore everyday. Is this related to lack of proper sleep?

I plan to work another year and then stop night duty but I am worried that its having a detrimental effect on my health.

I would appreciate your opinion.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageSleep Expert

You have what is called "shift-work sleep disorder". It is estimated that roughly 30% of people who work shifts will be boarded out for ill-health within 3 years of going on shift.

So yes, indeed, this can and does have severe health implications.

While this cannot be "cured" other than by going off shift, there are a number of ways of ameliorating the problem - not least of which is abandoning the archaic 12-hour shift that nurses work, and rather using the physiologically much more friendly 8=hour rotating shift system.

Of course, your employer, by law, should be giving you information and help to cope with this. However, it has been my experience that the hospital groups do not take this seriously, and will not get advice for their staff on how to deal with the problem.

Obviously, this condition is why there are so many mistakes made in the wards over night - when you have been awake for 19 hours, you are functioning at the same level as if you are legally drunk - and yet still making, quite literally, life and death decisions.

You really should see someone with expertise in this field, who will be able to analyse your sleep patterns, and help you devise the best solution under the circumstances. Even better would be if your employer arranged for someone to come in and speak to everyone about this - but don't hold your breath.

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

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