Effects of night-time on-call work on heart rate variability before bed and sleep quality in visiting nurses

Purpose: In Japan, many visiting nurses work carrying cell phones to respond to calls from users even at night (on-call work). The purpose of this study was to investigate whether on-call work affected heart rate variability (HRV) before bed and decreased sleep quality in visiting nurses even if their sleep was not interrupted due to actual calls.
Methods: Thirty-one visiting nurses (mean age, 49.8 years; standard deviation, 6.3 years) were asked to record their 2.5-min resting HRV before bed, and to undergo one-channel sleep electroencephalography (EEG) and subjective sleep evaluations upon waking (Oguri, Shirakawa, and Azumi Sleep Inventory) at home for 4–5 consecutive days, including both on-call and non-on-call days. Paired data sets of outcome measures, including HRV parameters, sleep macrostructure variables, and subjective sleep quality scores between on-call and non-on-call days were compared; the most recent measurements for each category were used for each subject.
Results: There were no differences in HRV measures and objective sleep EEG variables. A significant increase in “sleepiness on rising” and a decrease in “feeling refreshed” were observed on on-call days (P = 0.019 and 0.021, respectively), and younger subjects (≤ 51 years old) demonstrated a significant reduction in “sleepiness on rising” (significant interaction effect, P = 0.029).
Conclusions: Adverse effects of on-call work on sleep quality in most visiting nurses are thought to be subjective, and relatively young nurses tend to notice a decrease in sleep quality. On-call work itself does not appear to be a substantial stressor that could affect HRV and sleep structure.

Source: Kikuchi, Y., Ishii, N. et Kodama, H. (2018). International archives of occupational and environmental health (91).
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00420-018-1317-4

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