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This paper presents a review of the literature on nightwork as it pertains to nursing in general hospitals. It is based upon some 250 articles, reports and books. Research into the effects of nightwork on females, who predominate in nursing, is very limited. Objective descriptions of nursing at night are also rare. The literature review develops three main themes: the problems faced by night and shiftworkers, the maintenance of a 24-hour nursing service in hospitals and activity on the hospital ward at night.