Schedule changes associated with rotating shifts can interfere with the circadian rhythms of nurses and thereby affect their sleep duration, sleep quality, work efficiency, and work performance. The objectives of this study was to investigate differences in workday sleep fragmentation, rest-activity cycle, sleep quality, and activity level among nurses working different shifts. After filling out a basic information questionnaire and completing the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) questionnaire, participants were asked to wear an actigraph and keep sleep records for seven consecutive days. Data pertaining to wake after sleep onset (WASO), 24-hour autocorrelation coefficient (r24), and daytime activity mean was collected in order to investigate workday sleep fragmentation, rest-activity cycle, and daytime activity level. We obtained complete questionnaires and data from 191 nurses. Day- and evening-shift nurses had more regular workday rest-activity cycles than did night-shift nurses (F = 51.26, p < .001). After controlling for r24 coefficients, we determined that nurses who experienced greater workday sleep fragmentation had higher PSQI scores (β = .18, p = .008). After controlling for WASO times, we determined that nurses who had more regular rest-activity cycles on workdays had lower PSQI scores (β = –.16, p = .036). After controlling for shift type and WASO times, we determined that nurses with higher PSQI scores displayed lower activity levels (β = –.21, p = .015) and those with higher r24 coefficients displayed higher activity levels (β = .18, p = .040) on workdays. We then examined the causal path relationships. Among the shifts, only the day-shift nurses had a higher r24 (β = −.59, p < .001) than did the night-shift nurses; WASO exerted a significant impact on PSQI scores (β = .20, p = .002); r24 had a significant and negative influence on PSQI scores (β = −.38, p < .001), and PSQI scores significantly and negatively influenced workday activity levels (β = −.20, p = .006). This study determined that day- and evening-shift nurses enjoyed more regular and consistent rest-activity cycles than did night-shift nurses; nurses with greater workday sleep fragmentation and/or more irregular rest-activity cycles experienced poorer sleep quality; and nurses suffering from poorer sleep quality displayed lower daytime activity levels on workdays.
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