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Sleep is a fundamental biological requirement, necessary for life. While once we thought sleep was a passive process aimed at resting the body, we now know this is far from the truth.

Sleep is an active process which repairs, regenerates and restores physical and psychological health. The impact of poor sleep quality and/or quantity is becoming increasingly apparent with the emerging scientific literature. Inadequate sleep has been associated with a myriad of prevalent disorders including diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and depression (to name a few) (Worley 2018).

Despite this research, assessment and management of sleep is rarely covered at any depth in the undergraduate nursing curriculum (Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia 2019; Vallido, Jackson & O’Brien 2010).

Nurses report low levels of sleep knowledge and identify this as a significant barrier to managing their patients’ sleep (Huang et al. 2018; Ye et al. 2013).

In fact, while student nurses acknowledge the importance of sleep education and promotion, they felt their educational programs did not adequately prepare them to undertake this role (McIntosh & MacMillan 2009). Instead, much of the sleep-promoting education delivered by nurses was derived from their own life and/or clinical experience (McIntosh & MacMillan 2009).

A recent Parliamentary Inquiry into Sleep Health in Australia recommended that sleep forms one of the pillar stones of health promotion alongside diet and exercise (Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia 2019). The same report also identified the ’important and integral’ role nurses can play in delivering sleep interventions. To undertake this important health-promoting activity, sleep education must be integrated into curricula in both undergraduate, postgraduate and clinical education.


Huang, C-Y., Liao, H-Y., Chang, E-N. & Lai, H-L. 2018. Factors associated with the teaching of sleep hygiene to patients in nursing students. Nurse Education in Practice, 28:150-155.

McIntosh, A.E. & MacMillan, M., 2009. The knowledge and educational experiences of student nurses regarding sleep promotion in hospitals. Nurse Education Today. 29(7):796-800.

Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. 2019. Bedtime Reading: Inquiry into sleep health awareness in Australia.

Vallido, T., Jackson, D. and O’Brien, L. 2010. Nurses’ management of adolescent sleep disturbance: a qualitative study. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 19: 324-331. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2702.2009.03059.x

Worley S.L. 2018. The extraordinary importance of sleep: the detrimental effects of inadequate sleep on health and public safety drive an explosion of sleep research. P & T: A peer-reviewed journal for formulary management, 43(12), 758–763.

Ye, L., Keane, K., Johnson, S. H., & Dykes, P. C., 2013. How do clinicians assess, communicate about, and manage patient sleep in the hospital? JONA: The Journal of Nursing Administration, 43(6), 342-347.


Aisling Smyth (BSc., MSc., PhD., RN)

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