Sleep deprivation leads to reduced vigilance and potentially impairs work performance. Nurses may work long shifts that may contribute to sleep deprivation.


To assess how nurses’ sleep patterns are affected by work schedules and other factors.


Between October 2009 and June 2010, a total of 20 critical care nurses completed daily sleep and activity logs and a demographic survey and wore an actigraph to objectively measure sleep time for 14 days.


In a multivariate model with controls for repeated measures, mean sleep time between consecutive work shifts was short: 6.79 hours between 2 day shifts and 5.68 hours between 2 night shifts (P = .01). Sleep time was much greater between days when no shifts were worked (8.53 hours), consistent with catch-up sleep during these times. Every minute of 1-way commuting time was associated with a reduction of sleep time by 0.84 minutes.


Critical care nurses obtain reduced amounts of sleep between consecutive work shifts, particularly between consecutive night shifts. Whether this degree of sleep deprivation adversely affects patients’ safety needs further study.

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