The people who take care of you while you’re in the hospital aren’t getting enough sleep - which could have serious implications for patient safety, according to a study published in Sleep.

Sleep deprivation and disorders are believed to contribute significantly to the nearly 100,000 deaths attributable to medical errors that occur in U.S. hospitals each year.

The researchers set out to survey sleep habits and to estimate the prevalence of shift work disorder, insomnia, restless leg syndrome, excessive daytime sleepiness and risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea in nurses at an academic medical center.

What they found:

  • Almost half (49%) of respondents averaged less than 7 hours of sleep per night (average sleep time was 6.6 hours) compared to national figures of 28% and 6.8 hours, respectively.
  • Over a quarter (27%) of nurses used medications to assist with sleep
  • Some 13% reported using medications to stay awake.
  • Shift work disorder was found to be prevalent in 31% of all nurses
  • Restless leg syndrome was found in 14%.
  • Chronic insomnia was identified in 31% of all nurses
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness was found in 4.5%.
  • 18.5% of nurses were found to be at moderate-severe risk for Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

The study was a cross-sectional institutional adult online survey done at a tertiary care medical center among nurses of age > 18 years. A total of 1165 nurses participated in the survey. The data collected were: demographics, sleep schedule, medications used (to help to sleep, to help to stay wake), medical history of OSA, as well as the STOP-BANG, Epworth sleepiness scale (ESS), insomnia, rest leg syndrome, and shift work disorder questionnaires.

The study’s authors say interventions are needed to reduce the detrimental effects of sleep disorders, and ensure safety and optimum performance for nurses at work.