Sleep deprivation in nursing students: The negative impact for quality and safety

Cynthia M. Thomas, Constance E. McIntosh, Ruth Ann Lamar, Roberta L. Allen


Objective: The purpose of this pilot study was to understand nursing students’ perception of the relationship between sleep deprivation and learning, and personal and patient safety when in a clinical or work setting.

Methods: Design: The researchers used a cross-sectional correlational design. Setting: The study was conducted in a Mid-western state university school of nursing with an average of 400 undergraduate pre-licensure nursing students. Sample: All 328 undergraduate pre-licensure nursing students were invited to participate in the study. The convenience sample of 179 (response rate of 55%) pre-licensure, nursing students completed the study. Methodology: The Sleep Deprivation of Nursing Students, a 4-point Likert scale questionnaire, consisted of demographic questions and forty-five questions on personal sleep habits, caffeine/stimulant use, and sleep inducing aids, motor vehicle safety, spare time activities, and safety during work and clinical experiences.

Results: One hundred and fifty-five (n = 155) students needed seven or more hours of sleep daily to feel rested, but received less than 5 hours/day. All participants reported (n = 179) feeling sleep deprived.  Sleep inducing aids were used by (n = 56) participants, and (n = 35) took stimulants to stay awake. Students (n = 166) worked 8 or more hours at a job, and (n = 158) had at some 12 hour school clinical rotations, and (n = 64) reported a combined clinical and work of five to greater than 12 consecutive days. Students (n = 172) believed they provided safe practice at work and (n = 174) and safe practice in a clinical setting. Some students reported being awake 17-19 hours. The majority of students (n = 144) believed 12-hour-clinicals were too long, yet more than half of the students preferred 12-hour work and clinical experiences.

Conclusions: Nursing students may lack the knowledge that chronic sleep deprivation may result in personal and patient safety issues when in a clinical or work setting. Students are potentially exposing themselves to acute and chronic health problems as a result of sleep deprivation and the use of substances to remain awake or obtain sleep. Nurse educators and nurse managers must collaborate to reduce the number of consecutive clinical and work shifts, limit overtime hours, and better educate students on the negative impact of sleep deprivation. 

Full Text:



Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

Copyright © Sciedu Press 
To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the '' domain to your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.