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Is Sleep Deprivation Affecting Your Healthcare Career?


When you get enough sleep, you may feel like you’re on top of the world. How about when you don’t get enough sleep? You may feel sluggish, tired, and even a little out of sorts. It may have an impact on your work, too.

What does sleep deprivation do?

If you don’t get enough sleep, you’re not alone. More than 50 million Americans suffer from sleep disturbances, and suffer is the operative word. Sleep deprivation is linked with a myriad of health risks, including cardiovascular disease, a weakened immune system, poorer cognitive function and memory, and much more.

Let’s look more closely at the cognitive function issue – in the context of drivers. Drivers who slept five to six hours or fewer in 24 hours were twice as likely to be in an accident. Even worse, drivers who got four to five hours of sleep within 24 hours were four times as likely to be in an accident. To put these statistics into perspective, this is very close to the risks of drunk drivers. Clearly, lack of sleep can increase risks while driving, and that means it can increase risks while working, especially in health care.

Healthcare perspective

The risks of sleep deprivation are great in healthcare because patient safety may be at risk. However, the field itself can contribute to sleep deprivation in the first place. Healthcare workers typically work off-shifts and long hours. Furthermore, sleep duration may be shortened by insufficient time between work shifts and the competing demands of work and personal life.

Addressing this can be tough, and it requires a serious commitment. Adequate sleep time requires a combination of effective organizational policies regarding work hours, shift rotation, and sleep policies, as well as personal commitment to good sleep habits. This can be especially challenging when you are sleep deprived to begin with, so it may help to start working on this after a restful vacation or when starting a new job.

Workplace risks

Sleep deprivation can be tough to address in this field for a very specific reason: after working a 24- or 48-hour shift, one expert noted that healthcare workers wear their tiredness and fatigue like a ‘badge of honor.’ This is misguided, though: that same fatigue contributes to medication errors that kill more than 100,000 Americans every year.

The list of risks is long, and here’s another one. Companies, where employees tend to be sleep deprived, have five times higher workers’ compensation costs than companies where workers tend to get adequate sleep. This can translate, on average, to an extra $1,200 per year in medical and other costs for each worker who is sleep deprived.

Ready for a new assignment?

At 365 Healthcare Staffing Services, we specialize in the recruitment and placement of healthcare professionals in per diem, travel, and permanent assignments in healthcare facilities across the country. Are you considering a new assignment? Sleep on it, and give us a call at 310.436.3650. We would love to work with you!