A team of researchers from Peking University Third Hospital in China have identified three factors that increase the risk of sleep problems and related health issues in shift workers, particularly nurses. The study of 730 nurses found those with 'heavier night shift loads'—performing more night shifts per month than other workers, along with more hours and tougher workloads—were at a higher risk of sleep problems such as short sleep duration, difficulty falling asleep, poorer sleep quality, and sleep deprivation.
The researchers stress that sleep disorders 'aggravate nurse fatigue and increase the incidence of nursing errors.' They also discovered 'night shift density' was associated with chronic disease risk factors, such as increasing body mass index, body fat, and high cholesterol.
Recent studies link poor sleep quality to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes. Night shift density is associated with factors like a higher body mass index, body fat, and high cholesterol.
The study suggests monitoring night shift workers for risk factors and implementing interventions for sleep problems to improve overall well-being. Researchers emphasise the importance of enhancing sleep quality, optimizing night shift duration, frequency, and workload, and providing support at the system level for long-term improvement in the stability and well-being of the nursing workforce.