A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Kansas explored the stressors that parents who are nurses may experience in their day-to-day schedules. Their findings showed a significant link between stress and sleep issues for parents who are also nurses.
“We were really interested in looking at how the sleep-stressor relationship is different for nurses who are parents and nurses who are not parents,” said researcher Taylor Harris. “We also wanted to look at how many children parents have further influences the relationship between sleep and stress in those working parents, because caregiving at work and at home can be particularly difficult -- sometimes we don’t always look at that intersection specifically in the most prominent health care profession, which is nursing.”
How does parenting impact stress and sleep?
For the study, the researchers had 60 nurses complete surveys for two weeks; some of the nurses involved in the study were parents, and others were not. The questions were about the participants’ sleeping patterns and stress levels, with each participant being prompted to complete the surveys four times throughout the day.
The study showed that nurses with children at home weren’t getting as much sleep as those without children; parents also experienced more stress than non-parents. The surveys also indicated that having more children led to more stress and worse sleeping habits.
“The most striking findings were when looking at nightly sleep quality and stressor frequency and then nightly sleep quality and stressor severity,” Harris said. “We see how the participants who were parents had this stronger linkage between poor sleep and frequency and severity of stress, showing how for this population of nurses -- all either day shift or night shift workers -- being a parent really exacerbates that link.”
These findings are concerning because struggling with sleep and having to manage a lot of stress at work and at home can negatively impact nurses. The researchers worry about nurses with children finding balance so they can do their best both at home and at work.
“Sometimes we don’t think about the sleep-stressor link, and that can be really important in terms of intervention purposes for nurses who are parents, so that they can in turn be both better workers and better parents,” said Harris.
“Caregiving both at home and work is really difficult and being able to provide whatever type of intervention that would help nurses sleep better would then help lower those stressor frequencies and severity of stressors and, in turn, promote better cognitive performance at work and just better quality of life overall.”