healthcare professionals scientific evidence

Do we healthcare professionals take care of our sleep? Scientific evidence

Healthcare professionals tend to neglect sleep, as well as other self-care activities. Generally in the interest of caring for others before themselves. In fact, in terms of sleep disorders, it is estimated that the prevalence among doctors and nurses is around 40%. Data prior to the COVID-19 pandemic during which, as we highlighted in a previous post. There was a general reduction in the quality and quantity of hours of sleep in this group.

The most frequent sleep disorders among health professionals have to do with chronic insomnia. Sleep-wake rhythm disturbances and may also have to do with self-medication with sedatives and hypnotics, which is not uncommon in these professionals due to their easy accessibility and knowledge.

healthcare professionals recommendations

The etiology of these disorders is complex, but the factors involved feed into each other, since work overload, sustained stress, work shifts, shifts, or difficulties in reconciling personal and work-life end up deteriorating quality and amount of sleep, but they also increase vulnerability to professional burnout (or burnout ) and can lead to mental claudication leading to mental disorders, most of the anxiety-depressive spectrum.

Unfortunately, many of these disorders, paradoxical as they may be, can go undiagnosed and undiagnosed among healthcare professionals.

Hence the importance of remembering some general advice, most of them proposed by the World Sleep Society, related to sleep hygiene and that should be integrated into the culture of promoting the care of health workers both at the institutional level and at the personal level :


  • Establish a regular bedtime and wake-up time.
  • If you usually nap, avoid exceeding 45 minutes of daytime sleep. In fact, naps of between 20 to 45 minutes can help health professionals increase and restore your brainpower and well-being.
  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol 4 hours before bedtime, and don’t smoke.
  • Don’t abuse stimulants (including coffee, tea, sodas, energy drinks, and chocolate), and avoid consuming them at least 6 hours before bed.
  • Avoid smoking, as well as the use of psychoactive substances.
  • Try not to eat foods that are heavy, spicy, or high in sugar for at least 4 hours before going to bed. Ideally, dinners should not be copious and contain healthy and easily digestible foods.
  • Exercise regularly, but better not before bed.
  • Wear comfortable and cozy bedding.
  • Your room should be well ventilated, have a comfortable temperature, and have a comfortable bed.
  • Avoid noise as much as possible and reduce the amount of light in your bedroom as much as possible.
  • Reserve your bed for sleep and sex, but don’t use it for work or play.
  • Avoid watching television or using electronic devices before bed, and don’t sleep with them next to your bed either.


With regard to healthcare professionals exposed to correction situations, some useful recommendations for workers and institutions can be:


  • Rotations should be every 2-3 days or every 3-4 weeks.
  • Rotations can be done in two directions, one “natural” (morning-afternoon-night) and one “inverse” (night-afternoon-morning). Since there is no consensus in the scientific evidence on whether one is better than the other.
  • Limit shifts to 12 hours including overtime or 8 hours if they are night shifts and/or the work is demanding, monotonous, dangerous, or safety-critical.
  • Get two nights of full sleep when changing in the morning after the night shift.


And, as for the guards, both 12 and 24 hours:


  • Before the watch: it is necessary to have a good sleep routine the day before the watch, according to the general advice mentioned above.
  • During the watch: in the night watch, it can help to take breaks with naps of 15 or 20 minutes.


After shifts:


  • It is necessary to sleep at least two hours to reestablish the sleep routine and try to go to sleep at the usual time on the day that you go off duty so as not to alter your own circadian rhythm.


If, in any case, even applying these general or more specific measures of sleep care, you find that the quantity or quality of sleep has deteriorated, it is recommended that you avoid self-medication and that you consult your doctor or a specialist in a consultation regulated (not informal or corridor) in order to assess the need to study the problem in-depth and to be able to design an appropriate strategy to address it.


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