Judge says that an increasing body of research is showing the critical importance of sleep on cognitive function and decision making. Also, the Institute of Medicine says that increasing the proportion of adults who get sufficient sleep is a key objective for improving the health of the population.
She also points a nurse-specific Health Affairs study that shows that "errors and near errors are more likely to occur when hospital staff nurses work twelve or more hours at a stretch."
"It's a key component to whether people are healthy or not," Judge says. "Lack of [sleep] may compromise speed or reflexes, and decision-making skills are down."
For nurse leaders, Judge says the first step is education and awareness, for themselves and their staff. "I think it's not understood by nurses and the greater healthcare population…about how dangerous it is," she says.
She suggests incorporating education and resources about the importance of getting enough sleep into existing workplace health education programs. Like other programs for encouraging a healthy workforce, it fits into an organization's overall focus on patient safety.