Night shift depression in nursing (+3 coping tips)

By

Author bio

Page last updated: 28/10/2022

Night shift depression in nursing (+3 coping tips)

In this bloe we will discuss Night shift depression in nursing. 

We will also breifly discuss why night shift nurses are prone to depression and what they can do to cope and manage their mental health. 

Night shift depression in nursing

Depression amonst night shift workers is a serious cause for concern. Working night shifts has a detrimental effect on one’s mental health particualrly due to the impact working at night has on the circadian rhythm.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, a group of workers who work the night shift  are more at risk for anxiety, depression, and stress than their daytime counterparts. 

Nurses are at the frontline of medical care. They are the first people to attend when you are in pain or need any medical help. 

Currently, their jobs are even more demanding than usual, as they have to deal with corona patients. It is not uncommon for them to be depressed and yet they go on with their work because they have to. 

Nurses are often faced with overwhelming responsibilities and pressures, as well as long hours and constant exposure to death, sickness, and pain. The stress caused by these factors can be dangerous for anyone’s mental health especially for those who are already at risk for depression.

Nurse burnout is a common problem in the medical community, particularly during coronavirus outbreaks like this one. 

Nurses often feel overwhelmed by their workloads and responsibilities when treating patients infected with coronavirus or other diseases that have high mortality rates. 

These feelings may lead them to experience symptoms such as anxiety or depression that make it difficult to perform their jobs effectively. 

When it comes to night shift nurses, we have to understand that their issues with mental health are related to the body’s circadian rhythms—a natural, internal system that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours. 

When the circadian rhythm is disrupted (for example, during long-term night shift work), it can affect the body’s hormone levels and overall functioning. 

What many people don’t realize is that this disruption also affects mental health and emotional well-being. When late-shift workers are exposed to stimuli in the evening (like light), this creates internal conflict that makes it difficult to fall asleep. 

In nurses who are faced with night shift depression they tend to expeirnce frequent mood swings and dissatisfaction at work. 

Depressed nurses tend to arrive late for their shift. In certain instances, they can even miss work without notifying their supervisors. When a nurse becomes uninterested in filling his role in the team, it can also be a sign of encroaching depression.

For some nurses, depression can manifest with excessive alcohol intake and some of them even turn to medications and drugs which subsequently make it harder for them to do their job well or even get hired at all since employers will be wary about hiring someone who has abused drugs or alcohol previously.

Depression symptoms also include extremely low mood and fatigue and is often accompanied by thoughts of worthlessness and hopelessness which can lead to suicidal ideation and even attempts. 

Depression related symptoms such as inability to focus, lack of energy, and hopelessness can impact a person’s ability to work and meet the demands of their daily lives. 

People with depression often struggle with low self esteem and self worth which can cause them to negatively assess themselves. They may fear rejection and abandonment from other people which may cause them to isolate themselves in a bid to protect themselves.

This social withdrawal can make it difficult for them to maintain social commitments and relationships as they might choose to push people away especially when they do not have the skills to communicate and manage their emotions and thoughts. 

While these are some of the ways depression impacts a person, the disorder itself can cause the quality of life of people who have it to drastically decrease and in extreme cases, if the disorder is left untreated, it can lead to suicide attempts and death. 

Night shift depression in nursing (+3 coping tips)

Why Are Night Shift Nurses Prone to Depression?

When it comes to night shift nurses, we have to understand that their issues with mental health are related to the body’s circadian rhythms—a natural, internal system that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours. 

Disrupting the cycle (for example, during long-term night shift work) can affect the body’s hormone levels and overall functioning. 

What many people don’t realize is that this disruption also affects mental health and emotional well-being. When late-shift workers are exposed to stimuli in the evening (like light), this creates internal conflict that makes it difficult to fall asleep. 

A recent study analyzed the connection between shift work and the development of depression in workers. The study was conducted over a span of 8 years, with 1,955 participants employed as factory workers at one of two factories in Beijing. 

The participants were categorized as “night shift” workers or “day shift” workers and the results showed that the night shift workers’ risk for developing depression was 1.4 times higher than that for day shift workers. 

According to researchers, a night worker’s circadian rhythm is in conflict with scheudle of natural light and this leads to a situation where the rhythm doesn’t adjust properly and the workers are given only a fewer hours of sleep causing fatigue and exhaustion. 

If this partter of wakefullness and disrupted wakefulness continues, it can bve speculated that it can have a negative impact on the health and wellbeing of the indidvdual. 

A study conducted by Dtsch Arztebl et al 2017, revealed that working night shifts increases the risk of being diagnosed with depression by almost 42%, which is approximately 6% more than for day workers. 

Researchers believe that this is due to sleep disorders and chronobiological factors and is linked to premature aging and chronic fatigue, and insomnia.

3rd shift workers who were also in high stress jobs such as nursing is bound to have significantly higher levels of stress than those working day shifts. 

Stress adversely affects the overall well-being of an individual and can cause sleeping problems, mood swings, headaches, and many other mental illnesses such as depression. 

Plenty of other research finds that people with night shifts were more likely to report mental health problems than day shift workers. 

Nurses who work the night shift is also more likely to use sleeping aids, sedatives, and painkillers to help them sleep and deal with their aches and pains suggesting poorer health and deterroritating mental well-being. 

The high-stress nature of the nursing profession takes a toll on a nurse’s brain, body, and emotions. Studies have found that around 20 percent of nurses experience depression at least once in their lives, and it often goes undiagnosed. 

The prolonged exposure to stressful conditions, lack of sleep, limited interaction with friends and family due to social distancing rules and panic attacks are some of the factors that have contributed to the deteriorating mental health of nurses who work the night shift.

How to help improve mental health amongst nurses who work the night shift?

However, there are ways to help prevent depression from happening and help nurses cope with it when it does happen:

Be diligent with self care

Establish a daily routine even on weekends this will provide an individual time to exercise, eat healthy meals, and get enough sleep.

Care for your body like you would care for a friend, with kindness and support. Kindness can mean giving it the rest it needs- sleeping well and taking naps. 

Support can include making nutritious food for your body and enjoying the meal. It can also mean taking a walk or exercising to improve blood circulation, reduce cholesterol, etc. 

The little things you can do for your body can go a long way especially since this friend always tends to return the care and support. 

Research has found that exercising can release feel-good endorphins while eating nutritious food can boost serotonin levels.

Taking care of oneself, even on days when one doesn’t work the late shift. This means eating healthy foods that give you energy, getting enough sleep, and exercising.

Improve sleep hygine

Take time to improve your sleep hygiene. Research has found that sleep disorders are also a core symptom of depression. Irregular sleep and not enough sleep can make your healing process difficult and can even heighten the risk of relapse. 

Some of the things you can do to improve your sleep hygiene are

  • Avoid substances that impact your sleep, this includes caffeine. 
  • Exercise daily
  • Avoid heavy dinners
  • Change your sleeping environment to be more soothing and sleep inducing. 
  • Make changes in your pre-sleep routine such as taking relaxing baths before sleep, avoiding gadgets two hours before sleeping time.

When you are able to get good sleep, you might be able to focus more and be less tired and irritable. There might even be a shift in mood towards more hope and joy.

Invest in blackout shades or curtains or dark rooms if sleeping during the day. Sleeping in a dark environment is important for night-time shift workers especially because it helps your body’s internal clock adjust to the new schedule.

Get some vitamin D

Soaking in the sun to gain vitamin D is the best way to provide the necessary amount required to stay healthy. Vitamin is essential for maintaining and regulating one’s immune system. Therefore, making it a vital vitamin.

Seek professional help

Depression can be deadly if it is left untreated. Many people can struggle with accepting the diagnosis itself while others may find themselves hopeful because of the validation that they aren’t just making up their struggle. 

If you have not been diagnosed, do not stick to self diagnosis based on your symptoms. Seek out professional consultations starting with your GP who can refer you to specialists in the field. 

Once you have been diagnosed, seek help. This means seeking the right kind of doctor and therapist for you. Be patient and take the time to consult with different doctors and professionals who are able to understand what you are going through.

Taking time to find a doctor who can help you with estimating the right dosage of medication and the right medical treatment can make the quality of your journey to recovery drastically different. 


Conclusion

In this bloe we have discussed Night shift depression in nursing. 

We have also breifly discussed why night shift nurses are prone to depression and what they can do to cope and manage their mental health. 

References 

Natalie Vaughn. Depression And Anxiety In Nurses. Relias. Retrieved on 30th April 2022. https://www.relias.com/blog/depression-anxiety-in-nurses

Depression Among Nurses: It’s Real. Nurse Buff. Retrieved on 30th April 2022. https://www.nursebuff.com/nurse-depression/#:~:text=Other%20signs%20of%20depression%20in%20nurses%20include%3A%201,Impaired%20decision-making%20skills.%206%20…%20%28more%20items%29%20