Sleep Deprivation Extracts Health Toll

Sleep Deprivation Extracts Health Toll

Sleep Deprivation Extracts Health Toll H ealth care workers, military personnel and shift workers beware—new studies on the effects of sleep depriva...

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Sleep Deprivation Extracts Health Toll

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ealth care workers, military personnel and shift workers beware—new studies on the effects of sleep deprivation indicate that persons who sleep only four to six hours a night for 14 consecutive nights showed significant deficits in cognitive performance equivalent to going without sleep for up to three days in a row. Yet these subjects reported feeling only slightly sleepy and were unaware of how impaired they were. The findings, “The Cumulative Cost of Additional Wakefulness: Dose-Response Effects on Neurobehavioral Functions and Sleep Physiology From Chronic Sleep Restriction and Total Sleep Deprivation,” appeared in the March issue of the journal Sleep. This is the first systematic study to look at the prolonged cognitive effects of chronic sleep restriction lasting for more than a week. The results provide a clearer picture of possible dangers to people who typically are awake longer on a regular basis, said the principal investigators. Reduced cognitive abilities can occur even with a moderate reduction in sleep. Cognitive performance deficits included reduced ability to pay attention and react to a stimulus, such as when driving, or monitoring at airports. Other deficits involved impairment of the ability to think quickly and not make mistakes, and a reduced ability to multitask—to hold thoughts in the brain in some order while doing something else. Dr. Patricia A. Grady, Director of the National Institute of Nursing Research, NIH, which provided primary funding for the study, said, “These findings show that while young adults may believe they can adapt to less than a full night’s sleep over time, chronic sleep deprivation may seriously affect their performance while they are awake, and they may not even realize it.” the patients most likely to use a method correctly, according to the panel. With so many options available, it’s important that women also offer information about lifestyle, needs and preferences when making contraceptive decisions. “When discussing a woman’s lifestyle and how that corresponds to the contraceptive method she may be using presently, it’s important that clinicians discuss all available methods, so that each woman can make realistic decisions about which contraceptive is most consistent with

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Investigators also found that to prevent neurobehavioral defects from accumulating, the average person needs 8.16 hours of sleep during a 24-hour day, although there were differences among individuals in their need for sleep. The study included 48 healthy individuals aged 21 to 38 who were divided into four groups—those who were allowed to sleep up to either 8, 6 or 4 hours per night during a 24-hour period for two weeks and those who were deprived of sleep for three consecutive 24-hour periods. The experiments were conducted in a lab with constant monitoring. When awake, participants could watch movies, read, and interact with lab staff but could not have caffeine, alcohol, tobacco or medications.

her personal needs,” panelists explained.

Addressing the Nursing Shortage ealth care institutions can take positive steps to increase existing low levels of employee commitment, thereby attempting to stem the critical shortage of nurses in the U.S., say experts in a new study released by Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS) Intersearch, a market research firm.

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The study showed that more than half of U.S. health care workers (52 percent) admit to having a low level of commitment to the job they do and to the institutions for which they work. The report authors concluded that in a nation where health care is compromised by the lack of nurses, focusing on improving employee commitment can help improve the quality of health care and ease the nurse shortage. To do so, hospitals and health systems need to look beyond mere job satisfaction ratings and assess the

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deeper issues that relate to employee commitment, such as rewards and recognition, respect from their superiors, understanding the strategic direction of the company and the quality of senior management. The health care study was part of a larger global workplace study that surveyed 20,000 workers across 33 countries. Approximately 20 percent of the U.S. respondents worked in the health care industry. The TNS study differs from other existing research because it’s the first study to focus on commitment, which is a proven link between turnover, productivity and time missed from work. The TNS study is unique in that it uses a series of behavioral and attitudinal questions called “EmployeeScore” to fully understand the relationship between employees, their job and the company. The study classified heath care workers into four different groups:

• Ambassadors (46 percent): The most committed; those who are fully committed to the company and to their work • Company-Oriented (5 percent): The next most committed group, which includes those who are fully committed to their company, more so than their work and career • Career-Oriented (26 percent): Includes those who are more interested in furthering their career and their needs over the needs of the company • Disengaged (26 percent): The employee segment that no company wants, but has in abundance. They are committed neither to their company nor to their career In contrast to employees in 12 other industries studied, the health care industry has the highest percentage of career-oriented (26 vs. 20 percent) and

the lowest percentage of companyoriented (5 vs. 8 percent). These commitment levels indicate that health care employees are dedicated to their profession, but workplace issues thwart commitment to the employer. Many become disillusioned and leave the profession. Of even greater concern is the erosion of the highly committed; if workplace issues are not corrected, the percentage of “ambassadors” could fall, contributing to the shortage. Institutions can address workplace issues by: • focusing on development and advancement opportunities to motivate employees • ensuring a good workplace setting that enables them to do their jobs • encouraging management to show concern for them as employees • developing focused communications from the top down and bottom up.

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June | July 2003

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