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Blog Feature

By: Julia Worrall RN, CCRN, SANE, Executive Director, FACE on May 22nd, 2018

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Sleep Technology: A Nursing Perspective

sleep technologist | sleep apnea

Julia Worrall

This is the final installment in a six-part series on the evolution of the sleep technologist role. AAST has engaged professionals from across allied healthcare to address, from their perspective, the value of collaborating more closely with sleep technologists and/or incorporating the discipline into their area of health.

Nurses, Heal Thyself!

I am a nurse. I have been for 20 years, and I have been tired for those entire two decades. I am not alone. As nurses, we are called upon to be superheroes ... impervious to things like hunger, pain, sadness and fatigue. We keep going. As the years go on we become crusty and curt. We proudly earn the nickname ‘Nurse Ratchett’. We show up. We put aside our fatigue to care for patients because we consider the need for sleep to be a character flaw; only for the weak. A true nurse can churn out shift after shift, even on minimal sleep because we will never abandon our patients.

We realize on an intellectual level that hospitalization can be one of the most physically and psychologically stressful events in one’s life and that this stress has the potential to reduce our patients’ sleep quality, impair recovery and delay discharge. Patients notoriously complain about the noise we make at the nursing station, their roommates’ snoring, about their poor sleep in general while admitted and therefore, sleep aids are handed out like candy. Understandably then, sleep is a fundamental concern of nursing and this concern has turned nurses into experts at teaching their patients about sleep, sleep hygiene and sleep disorders.


Wrong. I wish this was true, however nurses generally consider sleep promotion a very low priority in their practice. Could this be because the typical nursing student receives just an average of 60 minutes of education about sleep during their entire four-year program?

Yes, you read that right: 60 minutes! Think about that for a second. We only spend one hour discussing what occurs during ONE-THIRD of our patients’ lives! Sleep education has still not been effectively integrated into the nursing curricula. No wonder nurses do not place a high priority on sleep and express that they consider insufficient sleep knowledge as a major barrier to effective sleep management in the clinical setting in addition to a perceived lack of time.

Nurses are the largest group of healthcare professionals and are considered to be the most trusted profession, so they are in the perfect position to effect change in our world. Not only for their patients, but also for themselves as a group. Nurses who believe in and adopt healthy behaviors themselves are more likely to act as positive role models for their patients through patient education. In fact, nurses who had higher sleep quality, were more knowledgeable about sleep in general and who had a positive attitude toward sleep hygiene were actually much more likely to broach the subject of sleep with their patients.

So before we can address the sleep health of our patients, we need to address our own sleep.

Nurses, Heal Thyself! 

Many times I have reported for a shift only to hear the nurses lamenting their extreme sleep deficits. We wear our sleep deprivation as a badge of honor. This is foolhardy and explains the lack of resiliency that is creeping into our profession. It is hard to be compassionate toward our patients lack of sleep while we are exhausted, actively managing the flow of patients that never cease through our department. Sadly, our own lackadaisical attitudes about sleep, our own habits, are harming our patients.

It is true that we are pressed in every way for time, but how fantastic would it be if we could have a dedicated sleep technologist educator to provide in-service training for nurses and to be a resource for the inevitable sleep issues our patients face once admitted? My dream for the future is that sleep education would be extensively taught to nurses and that sleep technologists would be an integral part of the in-hospital multidisciplinary team. 

As the world’s attention turns to consider that elusive one-third of our lives when we are completely unaware, I call upon nurses to collaborate with the sleep educators, the sleep technologists, to discuss strategies for managing our patients, for providing the patient education so desperately needed to guide our patients to achieve those crucial eight hours of sleep a night for optimal health.


Catch-up on the series:

Part one with Rita Brooks, MED, RPSGT, REEG/EPT, FAAST
Part two with Tim Chrapkiewicz, DDS
Part three with Andrea Ramberg, RPSGT, CCSH, Centegra Health System
Part four with Katrina Basso, Myofunctional Therapy Provider, Communicative Disorders Assistant
Part five with Cheryl Memmini, RRT, RPSGT, CCSH

Want to learn more? Check out these resources on the AAST Learning Center. Members, be sure to log-in to ensure you receive your member pricing.

Journal Club #27: APRN and PA in Sleep Centers A17314|1

Sleep Care Manager Module - Care Plans A17630|1