One of the most common complaints of nurses is that they have trouble sleeping. Of course, the most difficult time to sleep is when you are working night shift, but working day shift can cause sleep disturbances, too. Sometimes, it is just hard to shut off the mind when it has been working all day to solve problems, manage time, and get your job done. The problem is even more pronounced when you switch from days to evenings. There is always that one day in the middle when you can’t sleep at all. In short, nurses have trouble with this, and it only makes the stress worse.
Treating sleep disorders is sometimes beyond the ability of nurses. When you see a sleep specialist, they may suggest that you change jobs. In severe cases of insomnia, this may be necessary, but very few nurses can just change their jobs. Besides, two unfortunate parts of nursing are stress and shift work. A change of scenery isn’t likely to solve the problem of insomnia. What can you do? Actually, you can try many different techniques to overcome your sleep problems. From changing your environment to using a therapist, sleep is something you can get more of if you try some tried and true methods.
Sleep hygiene is the easiest method of getting a better night’s – or day’s – sleep. It may sound like you are taking a shower before sleep, but the techniques have nothing at all to do with that. Let’s face it: most people don’t focus on their environment when trying to sleep. Maybe you take a nap on the couch or sleep with the television on. All of these can keep you from sleeping. The first step is allowing yourself a quiet place. Earplugs can help, but some find they can’t sleep with them in. Getting a quiet place to sleep may be difficult, but don’t add to the problem by keeping TVs on or listening to music. Try to make your environment as quiet as possible.
You should also keep your sleeping area somewhat cool. When you are too hot, it is more difficult to sleep. A fan can help to decrease the temperature and may block some of the noise that you can’t get away from. It is a simple solution to two problems. Caffeine is another component of getting sleep. Try not to drink it within two hours of sleep. You should also try to minimise activities that are likely to stimulate you, such as playing on the computer or your phone. Finally, if you train your brain to associate your bed with sleep, it can trick your mind into letting you rest when you finally do lay down.
Some nurses are reluctant to take sleep medication, but in some cases it may be the only solution. Of course, there are many sleep medications that nurses are intimately aware of. However, the jury is still out over how safe they are. Some can cause some short term memory loss, grogginess upon waking, and dependence. The use of sleep medication has changed over the years and lower doses are now being used to treat short term insomnia. Again, this is not a medication you want to use long term. A sleep specialist can help you find other solutions for sleep.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
It may be hard to believe, but there is a specialty of cognitive behavioural therapy that focuses solely on insomnia. Cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT, is a form of therapy that revolves around changing thought patterns and interrupting negative thoughts. It seeks to reduce stress, depression, and anxiety by using simple mind based strategies that distract from negative emotions. When it comes to insomnia, a great deal of the problems tend to centre on thoughts that “won’t shut off.”
When CBT is used for insomnia, it works to shut these thoughts off and allow sleep. In fact, this may be the best form of sleep treatment for nurses because they often experience the racing thoughts problem. By learning to direct your mind to a calm place, you stand a much greater chance of allowing yourself the rest that you need. Unfortunately, this form of CBT is in its early stages, and it is not very well known or available. The best solution in the interim would be to find a therapist who is experienced in CBT and then use the techniques for sleeping. Using these mind strategies in combination with other ones mentioned here will help you to find the sleep that you may be missing out on.
Lynda is a registered nurse with three years experience on a busy surgical floor in a city hospital. She graduated with an Associates degree in Nursing from Mercyhurst College Northeast in 2007 and lives in Erie, Pennsylvania in the United States. In her work, she took care of patients post operatively from open heart surgery, immediately post-operatively from gastric bypass, gastric banding surgery and post abdominal surgery. She also dealt with patient populations that experienced active chest pain, congestive heart failure, end stage renal disease, uncontrolled diabetes and a variety of other chronic, mental and surgical conditions. Her Website.