Study Shows Sleep Issues Are Contributing to Nurses' Anxiety, Depression During the Pandemic

The study authors suggested that employers could take action to address work stress and factors that influence sleep.

New research demonstrated that more than half of nurses had difficulty sleeping during the first 6 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to less sleep and an increased level of anxiety and depression, according to the study authors from the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing.

"Nurses are already at risk for higher rates of depression and insufficient sleep compared to other professions, thanks to the stress of patient care and the nature of shift work. The pandemic seems to have further exacerbated these issues to the detriment of nurses' well-being," said lead study author Amy Witkoski Stimpfel, PhD, RN, an assistant professor in the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing, in a press release.

The study investigators surveyed 629 nurses and interviewed 34 nurses from June through August 2020, and the nurses were asked about their experiences working during the first 6 months of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.

Some notable results of the nurses' responses from the survey included their high rates of depression (22%), anxiety (52%), and insomnia (55%), with a particular emphasis in responses around difficulty sleeping as a contributing factor and outcome of poor mental health.

Although, sleeping for 5 hours or less before a shift markedly increased the odds of depression, anxiety, and insomnia among the survey respondents, they also described how anxiety and thoughts about their stressful working conditions, such as understaffing and lack of PPE, led to their difficulty falling asleep and waking up at night.

"We found that sleep problems were interwoven with anxiety and depressive symptoms," Witkoski Stimpfel said in the press release. "Prior research supports this bidirectional relationship between sleep and mental health. We know that getting sufficient sleep fosters mental and emotional resilience, while not getting enough sleep predisposes the brain to negative thinking and emotional vulnerability."

The study authors suggested that employers could take action to address work stress and factors that influence sleep. Specifically, they recommended that employers could offer training on stress management and provide referrals for mental health care professionals to those in need. Additionally, employers providing the right resources, such as staffing, beds, and PPE, and working to ensure nurses have time away from work are crucial in nurses' efficiency in their job and personal wellbeing.

"Our findings help us better understand the difficulty nurses are facing—and why some nurses are leaving their jobs or the field altogether—but also reveal opportunities for hospitals and other employers to support this critical workforce," Witkoski Stimpfel said in the press release.

REFERENCE

Another pandemic challenge for nurses: sleep problems. NYU. January 27, 2022. Accessed February 1, 2022. https://www.nyu.edu/about/news-publications/news/2022/january/pandemic-nurses-sleep-problems.html

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