Associating night-shift work with lifetime use of sleep medication and sleep quality in a cohort of female nurses

Daniëlla van de Langenberg, Jelle Vlaanderen*, Nina Berentzen, Hans Kromhout, Roel Vermeulen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Night-shift workers often sleep at moments, not in sync with their circadian rhythm. Though the acute effects of night-shift work on sleep quality directly after a night shift are well described, less is known about the chronic effects of night-shift work on sleep. We associated ever-working night shifts and recently working night shifts (<4 wk) with lifetime use of sleep medication and melatonin, self-reported average sleep duration and sleep quality over the 4 wk preceding inclusion (measured using the Medical Outcomes Study Sleep scale). We explored trends in sleep outcomes with average frequency of night shifts per week, tenure of night-shift works in years, and time since last performed night work. This research was conducted within the Nightingale study which is a Dutch cohort study of 59,947 female registered nurses aged 18 to 65. Working night shifts was not associated with self-reported nonoptimal sleep length and sleep quality. However, we observed higher odds of lifetime use of sleep medication for nurses who ever-worked night shifts (OR 1.24; 95% CI 1.13, 1.35) and who recently worked night shifts (OR 1.13; 95% CI 1.05, 1.22); with night-shift work frequency and tenure being associated with lifetime use of sleep medication (P-value for trend < 0.001 for both). Odds for melatonin use were elevated for nurses who ever worked night shifts (OR 1.55; 95% CI 1.40, 1.71) and recently worked night shifts (OR 1.72; 95% CI 1.59, 1,86). The findings of this study have practical implications for healthcare organizations that employ nurses working night shifts. The observed associations between night-shift work and increased lifetime use of prescribed sleep medication and melatonin highlight the need for targeted support and interventions to address the potential long-term sleep problems faced by these nurses.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberwxad058
Pages (from-to)1056-1068
Number of pages13
JournalAnnals of Work Exposures and Health
Issue number9
Early online date27 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2023


  • night work
  • occupational health
  • shift work sleep quality
  • sleep perception


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