It’s one of the more common reasons why nurses get fired: falling asleep on the night shift. Not only that, it can increase their risk of injury, and may put patients at risk. Part of this isn’t their fault. Shift work, long shifts, and the combination of draining work interspersed with inactivity can put anyone to sleep. But among the other causes of sleeping at work, if you find yourself unable to stay awake, you should consider sleep apnea.
How to Stay Awake
There are some things you can try on your own to help you stay awake. Of course, you should try getting more sleep when off shift. Allow yourself longer periods in bed. Use blackout curtains and eye masks to create a dark environment that will make it easier to get better sleep. If sleeping longer doesn’t make a difference in your wakefulness, sleep apnea is probably a factor.
During your shift, keep active. When there’s nothing going on, keep moving. Brief exercises can help you stay awake and healthy, too. Keep your mind engaged by talking to coworkers and even patients if they’re up.
Make sure your station is brightly lit. If possible, try to get lights that are closer to the sun in their spectrum.
Snacking can help you stay awake, but it can also backfire if you’re eating sugary and starchy foods. Crunchy vegetables and nuts are good choices–they won’t lead to spikes and crashes in your blood sugar.
Speaking of crashes, coming down off your caffeine high can put you to sleep. Use caffeine responsibly. Leaning too heavily on caffeine may be another warning sign of sleep apnea.
Are You at Risk for Sleep Apnea?
If you’re still having trouble staying awake, you have to consider whether sleep apnea might be the reason. You are at an increased risk for sleep apnea if:
- You snore
- You wake up feeling unrested
- You wake up with a headache
- You are overweight
- You have been diagnosed with high blood pressure or diabetes
- You are age 40 or older
- You are a man
- You have a large neck
- You have GERD
If you have one or more of these risk factors, it’s vital that you talk to a doctor about sleep apnea. We know that nurses and doctors are actually the worst about taking care of their own health, but this is important and you need to take it seriously.
If you are looking for a sleep dentist in Omaha to help with sleep apnea treatment, please call (402) 493-4175 for an appointment at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.