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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Sleep, stress and compensatory behaviors in Australian nurses and midwives

Jillian Dorrian, Jessica Paterson, Drew Dawson, Jan Pincombe, Carol Grech, Ann E Rogers
Revista de Saúde Pública 2011, 45 (5): 922-30
21845291

OBJECTIVE: To describe sleep, stress and compensatory behaviors in nurses and midwives.

METHODS: The study included 41 midwives and 21 nurses working in Australian hospitals between 2005 and 2009. Participation was voluntary. All participants recorded on a daily basis their work and sleep hours, levels of stress and exhaustion, caffeine intake and use of sleep aids for a month (1,736 days, 1,002 work shifts).

RESULTS: Participants reported moderate to high levels of stress and exhaustion on 20-40% of work days; experienced sleep disruption on more than 50% of work days; struggled to remain awake on 27% of work days; and suffered extreme drowsiness or experienced a near accident while travelling home on 9% of workdays. Age, perceived sleep duration and work hours were significant predictors of caffeine intake. About 60% of participants reported using sleep aids (about 20% reported taking prescription medications and 44% of nurses and 9% of midwives reported alcohol use as a sleep aid at least once during the study). Stress and workdays were significant predictors of sedative use. Overall, 22% reported being indifferent or mildly dissatisfied with their job.

CONCLUSIONS: Sleep problems, high levels of stress and exhaustion and low job satisfaction are prevalent among nurses and midwives. The use of alcohol and sleeping pills as sleep aids, and the use of caffeine to help maintain alertness is also common. Nurses and midwives may use caffeine to compensate for reduced sleep, especially on workdays, and sleeping pills to cope with their daily work-related stress.

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