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Medical staff working the night shift: can naps help?

R Doug McEvoy and Leon L Lack
Med J Aust 2006; 185 (7): 349-350.

Napping at night may benefit both health professionals and their patients

Delivering medical care is a 24-hour business that inevitably involves working the night shift. However, night shift requires the health professional to work when the body’s clock (circadian system) demands sleep. Added to this is the problem of “sleep debt”, arising from both prolonged prior wakefulness on the first night shift and cumulative sleep debt after several nights’ work and repeated unsatisfactory daytime sleeps. A further aggravation, particularly for trainee medical staff in teaching hospitals, has been the demand for excessive work hours across the working week. As has been dramatically shown in recent well controlled studies, the net result of this assault on the sleep of health professionals can be impaired patient safety,1 and the health and safety of health professionals themselves.2

  • R Doug McEvoy1,2
  • Leon L Lack2,3

  • 1 School of Medicine, Flinders University, Adelaide, SA.
  • 2 Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health, Repatriation General Hospital, Adelaide, SA.
  • 3 School of Psychology, Flinders University, Adelaide, SA.

Correspondence: doug.mcevoy@rgh.sa.gov.au

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