A shift to something better? A longitudinal study of work schedule and prescribed sleep medication use in nurses

Occup Environ Med. 2022 Jun 20;79(11):752-757. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2022-108251. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Objectives: To explore whether a change in work schedule was associated with a change in the probability of prescribed sleep medication use.

Methods: A longitudinal study with annual questionnaire data (2008/2009-2021, except 2019) on work schedule (day work only, shift work without nights and shift work with nights) and prescribed sleep medication use from 2028 Norwegian nurses (mean age 31.7 years, 90.5% women at baseline) who participated in the ongoing Survey of Shift work, Sleep and Health (SUSSH). Associations were estimated using a random effects model, and a fixed effects regression model in which nurses were included as their own control to account for potential unobserved confounding.

Results: In both models, day work was associated with a more than 50% lower probability of sleep medication use compared with shift work with nights (adjusted OR (aOR) 0.50, 95% CI 0.27 to 0.93 in the random effects model, and an aOR 0.32, 95% CI 0.14 to 0.70 in the fixed effects regression model). Shift work without nights was associated with a non-statistically significant reduction in sleep medication use within nurses in the fixed effects regression model when compared with shift work with nights (aOR 0.66, 95% CI 0.37 to 1.20).

Conclusions: Day work was associated with a significant reduced probability of prescribed sleep medication use compared with shift work with nights. This indicates that quitting night work will improve sleep and thereby reduce hypnotic use.

Keywords: Epidemiology; Longitudinal studies; Shift Work Schedule; Sleep.