Also, since lack of sleep is linked to other health problems, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, and depression, Judge urges hospitals to find creative ways to provide healthy food options for healthcare workers, especially those who work overnight.
"There are so few good food options at 2 am; [it's often] nothing but vending machine food, and rarely is that healthy," she says.
Additionally, nurse leaders need to pay close attention to healthy scheduling practices to be sure that nurses have adequate time to rest in between shifts. Getting enough sleep is also an issue that's been playing out in an indirect way in the battle over requiring nurses to work mandatory overtime, a practice that was recently banned in Massachusetts.
"You have to look at what is the healthiest for nurses and their patients, and mandatory overtime doesn't weight that into the equation," Judge says.
In developing and researching for such education, Judge says she's heard a lot of feedback from nurses about the need to heighten awareness of shift work-related sleep disorders.
"The health of healthcare providers definitively has an impact on patients. If you can make the nurses healthier you can make the whole country healthier," she says. "Sleep and the quality of sleep is a core health issue both for nurses and nurses' patients."