Study: Bright Light Can Have Huge Impact on Nurses’ Night Shifts

 In Nurses Weekly

According to a June 2023 study published in Sleep Health, a multidisciplinary journal of the National Sleep Foundation, nurses exposed to at least 40 minutes of bright light before beginning their night shifts feel less fatigued and make fewer errors on the job. The bright light exposure also led to nurses having better sleep after their night shifts.

To perform the study, 57 full-time nurses who work “rapidly rotating” shifts participated in a randomized control trial featuring evening light exposure and morning light avoidance. Every morning and evening for 30 days, the nurses measured their fatigue, work-related errors, sleepiness, moods, sleep duration and sleep quality.

“Healthcare workers are experiencing high levels of fatigue due to staffing shortages, difficult schedules, and heavy workloads,” Jay Olson, an author of the study, told McGill University. “Further, the cost of medical errors has been estimated at tens of billions of dollars per year in North America. Our study shows that feasible changes, such as getting light exposure before the night shift, may help reduce fatigue and its effects on performance at work, something which could benefit both the nurses and their patients.”

During initial observations, nurses working rotating shifts made a number of work-related errors including wrong medication dosages and accidental needle pricks. The nurses that were exposed to at least 40 minutes of bright light before their night shifts experienced 67% fewer work-related errors, less fatigue, a small improvement in mood and a small increase in sleep duration.

“Interventions like the one we studied are relevant to a large population of workers, since between a quarter and a third of the world’s employees do some form of shift work,” Marieve Cyr, one of the study’s authors, told McGill University. “Although we focused on nurses working rotating schedules, our results may apply to other types of shift workers as well.”

(This story originally appeared in The Brunswick News.)

24/7 Crisis Hotline for Impaired Nurses - 1-800-662-0108