A new study has found that more than half of nurses experienced sleep problems in the first six months of the pandemic, leading to both anxiety and depression.
The study was published in the Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine.
“Thanks to the stress of patient care and the nature of shift work, nurses are already at higher risk of depression and insufficient sleep compared to other professions. The pandemic appears to have further exacerbated these problems, to the detriment of nurses’ health. essence,” said Amy Witkoski Stimpfel, PhD, RN, an assistant professor at NYU’s Rory Meyers College of Nursing and the study’s lead author.
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Caregivers face unprecedented challenges as they work on the front lines of the Covid-19 pandemic, including staff shortages, an early shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and witnessing widespread suffering and death. Research is beginning to uncover the impact of these ongoing stressors on the mental health and well-being of caregivers.
In this study, researchers surveyed 629 nurses from June to August 2020 and interviewed 34 nurses. The nurses, who worked in different health care facilities in 18 states, were asked about their experiences in the first six months of the pandemic in the United States
The survey found high rates of depression (22 percent), anxiety (52 percent), and insomnia (55 percent) among nurses. Remarkably, sleep disorders were both a factor and a result of poor mental health.
Sleeping just five hours or less before a shift increased the likelihood of depression, anxiety, and insomnia. But the nurses also described how anxiety and thinking about stressful working conditions – understaffed, being transferred to a Covid unit, lack of PPE and many patient deaths – led to difficulty falling asleep and waking up at night.
In addition to stress-related sleep problems, changes in nurses’ work schedules, such as overtime or abrupt changes between day and night shifts, resulted in nurses getting fewer hours of sleep.
“We found that sleep problems were linked to anxiety and depressive symptoms,” says Witkoski Stimpfel.
“Previous research supports this bidirectional relationship between sleep and mental health. We know that getting enough sleep promotes mental and emotional resilience, while insufficient sleep predisposes the brain to negative thinking and emotional vulnerability,” Stimpfel added.
To better support nurses and their well-being, the researchers urge employers to take steps to address work stress and factors affecting sleep. In addition to ensuring that caregivers have the resources, such as staff, beds, and PPE, to do their jobs effectively, employers can provide training in stress management and refer those in need to mental health professionals.
Employers should also be mindful of scheduling, ensuring caregivers are kept off work, protecting them from excessive overtime and shifts that quickly alternate between day and night, and offering flexible working arrangements.
“Our findings help us better understand the difficulties nurses face — and why some nurses are leaving their job or the field altogether — but they also highlight opportunities for hospitals and other employers to support this important workforce,” said Witkoski Stimpfel.
Additional study authors include Lloyd Goldsamt and Victoria Vaughan Dickson of NYU Meyers and Lauren Ghazal of the University of Michigan. The research was supported by a NYU Covid-19 Research Catalyst grant.
This story was published from a wire agency feed with no changes to the text.