A pathway to a healthier you

Scheduling sleep – how your roster can help

Rachel, an oncology nurse, found the stress of a new job, combined with rotating shifts and caring for 2 children, caused her usually good sleep to become chaotic.  

I began nursing a year ago. Pretty quickly it was taking me hours to get to sleep, and the next day I was super fatigued and irritable

Sleep – a challenge for our profession

Not getting enough sleep is a common problem for nurses and midwives. One study found that nurses lost an average of 83 minutes of sleep in between shifts compared to days off, sleeping approximately 7 hours instead of 8. Another 2022 study revealed that 55% of nurses have insomnia, while 52% have anxiety and 22% suffer from depressive symptoms. Midwives also have high rates of insomnia, with research finding that two thirds of midwives suffer from this problem. 

Under-slept and anxious

We all know how important sleep is, and when you’re not getting enough, you don’t feel yourself. Rachel’s sleep worsened with staff shortages at work, as the pressure mounted with her patient load. Her anxiety began to increase, which was another reason she couldn’t fall asleep. She had trouble relaxing, and her mind would race.  

Rachel knew she couldn’t continue with her sleep as it was. She wanted to invest more in her sleep and knew she could learn ways to support herself to have better sleep.  

Sleep education – put it on the syllabus for midwives and nurses

Learning about how to get regular quality sleep is especially important for students and graduate nurses and midwives. 

The Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing tells us that: “It is possible that nurses who receive sleep education early in their undergraduate training may be less likely to experience poor sleep during their graduate year and future career”. 

Manage your roster to better sleep

Rachel decided the best place to start for quality sleep was with her roster.

I had never really put roster preferences in or thought much about how to plan my roster. My shifts were all over the place, and sometimes I would work 8-9 shifts in a row, with too many late-earlies in the mix

Rachel discussed her concerns with her manager. She began planning shifts three months in advance, putting in roster preference to avoid working late/earlies where she could, and not working more than 3-4 shifts in a row. She requested to only work night shift in blocks instead of random one-off shifts like she had been doing. She requested to have two days off after a stint of night duty to recover.  

Within a few weeks, her sleep improved. 

Now my roster is so much better, and I am getting more rest in between shifts to recover. My anxiety is still an issue, and I know that I need to address this so that my sleep keeps getting better