An article in the Journal of Nursing Management by Beebe at al. found that there was no differences between the sleep quality and diet quality of nurses who work day shift and night shift.

Most nurses will say “Tell me something I don’t know”.

But that is not the whole story.

You have to dig deeper on this one to discover a correlation that nurses who do not exercise and have a higher BMI (body mass index) have poorer diet quality and poorer sleep quality.

It does not matter if you work day or night shift.

If nurses do not exercise and have a high BMI, the greater the chances of developing diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, obesity, osteoporosis, dental diseases and cancer.

The connections are multifaceted.

Nurses who are not physically active have higher BMIs and were more likely to have a poor diet.

As the nurse has a poor diet, it is to be expected that BMI will increase over time. (It is a slow process.)

Nurses who have a higher BMI then experience a poorer sleep quality.

Beebe et al. say “… to our knowledge, this is the first study that examined the association between shift category and diet quality.”

They did the study because they said there was a dearth of research about the association of diet quality and sleep quality of day and night shift nurses.

While they did not find the association, they did find an association between BMI, diet and sleep.

Many nurses work permanently on nights or rotate through night duty.

Working night shift does prevent nurses from getting as much sleep as regular shift nurses.

They experience disrupted circadian rhythms, stress, sleep debt and lack of physical activity.

It is the lack of physical activity that was important in this study.

Working as a nurse also affects meal patterns with unpredictable work patterns.

Nurses will skip a lunch or breaks so they can get their work done.

The long term consequences of skipping meals is a poorer diet and increased BMI which leads to poor sleep, whether the nurse works day or night shift.

It is a vicious circle.

Lethargy from night shift and poor sleep means a decrease in physical activity and so on.

It is not only the nurse who is affected by poor sleep quality.

There are more mistakes, injuries and impaired job performance that occurs which has the potential to place patients at rick as well as your colleagues.

Each nurse will have a different reaction to the effects of shift work.

From a workplace perspective, a beginning point would be a review of rostering practices.

No nurse should have to have split days off.

It is the unpredictable work patterns that contributed to poor diet quality and the flow on consequences of poor sleep quality.

There is no getting away from nurses doing night duty because there will always be services that provide 24 hours a day care.

Workplaces should provide sleep training to their employees so that they have the tools to better manage their sleep patterns.

As well, a wellness program should be available to nurses so that they can obtain high quality advice about improving diet and physical activity.

The long term outcome of these initiatives would be an improvement in nurses overall health, job performance and better patient care.

The consequences of not implementing these initiatives will continue to be increasing absenteeism, higher job turnover and an increased risk to patients.

To learn more about sleepy nurses:

Beebe, Deborah, et al. “Diet quality and sleep quality among day and night shift nurses.” Journal of Nursing Management 25.7 (2017): 549-557.