Quick returns (intervals of <11 h between the end of one shift and the start of the next) are associated with short sleeps and fatigue on the subsequent shift. Recent evidence suggests that shift workers regard quick returns as being more problematic than night work. The current study explored quick returns and night work in terms of their impact on sleep, unwinding, recovery, exhaustion, satisfaction with work hours and work-family interference. Data from the 2006 cohort of Swedish nursing students within the national Longitudinal Analysis of Nursing Education (LANE) study were analysed (N = 1459). Respondents completed a questionnaire prior to graduation (response rate 69.2%) and 3 years after graduation (65.9%). The analyses examined associations between frequency of quick returns and night work and measures taken in year three, while adjusting for confounding factors (in year three and prior graduation). Frequency of quick returns was a significant predictor of poor sleep quality, short sleeps, unwinding, exhaustion, satisfaction with work hours and work-to-family interference, with higher frequency predicting more negative outcomes. Quick returns did not predict recovery after rest days. Frequency of night work did not predict any of the outcomes. In conclusion, quick returns were an important determinant of sleep, recovery and wellbeing, whereas night work did not show such an association.
Keywords: Night work; nurses; quick returns; sleep; wellbeing.