Since December 2019, the whole world is experiencing an unprecedented situation due to the emergence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) causing the pandemic of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Presently, frontline professionals working in designated hospitals for COVID-19 treatment, experience a sense of intense psychological pressure. High risk of infection, inadequate protection from contamination, increased workload, discrimination, isolation, uncertainty about the outcomes of the pandemic, are all expected to impose stress upon healthcare workers, seriously affecting mental health, including sleep hygiene .
Scientific studies suggest that sufficient sleep quality is a biological requirement for human life, alongside food, water, and air and is vital for maintaining life and health as well as safe working conditions. Seven to eight hours sleep a night is associated with a lower risk of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, myocardial infarction and stroke, and a reduced risk of injuries and fatigue-related errors. Medical and nursing staff is usually exposed to shifts and long working hours. These demanding occupational programs contribute to employee sleep disorders .
According to previous studies on SARS and Ebola epidemics, the onset of a sudden life-threatening disease could lead to extraordinary amounts of pressure on healthcare professionals. High-intensity work, physical and emotional exhaustion, inadequate personal protection equipment, risk of nosocomial infection during hospitalization, helplessness, fear, anxiety and concern for patients and family members and the need to make sense of the morally challenging decisions being made, can have dramatic effects on their physical and mental well-being. Their resilience can be further compromised by isolation and loss of social support, risk of contagion and infection of friends and relatives, as well as drastic, often annoying changes in working conditions. Previous studies have reported that healthcare staff especially those who work in the frontline during viral epidemic outbreaks are at high risk for developing mental health issues, including stress, anxiety, depressive symptoms, anger, insomnia, fear, and sleep disorders [3, 4, 5, 6].
As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, nurses were on the front line of health and social care in the most extreme of circumstances. In similar outbreaks, nurses have had the highest levels of occupational stress and resulting distress compared with other groups [7,8,9,]. Having to enter the negative pressure ward to care for the patients after only undergoing a brief training, working in the Intensive Care Units and the Infection Departments, spending hours each day putting on and removing airtight protective equipment, being transferred to other non-anti-epidemic positions and in the meanwhile worrying about becoming infected or infecting family members, at times may compromise safety and wellbeing and can lead to adverse mental health outcomes .
Family support refers to the sense of perceived support from the family environment. It is an important element of social support. Evidence on the influence of family support on chronic illness self-management behaviors shows that perceived family support is positively associated with improved outcomes among individuals with diabetes mellitus [11,12], chronic obstructive pulmonary disease , even in lung cancer patients . Also, research highlights the negative correlation between family support and depression , while another study reported a negative correlation between family support and burnout . The role of family support is likely to become more influential in situations where entire societies are placed under tightened quarantine restrictions.
The aim of the study is to investigate the prevalence of sleep disorders and perceived stress and evaluate the effects of the sense of family support in a specialized COVID-19 hospital nursing staff during the pandemic crisis.