By concentrating on the impact of a specific shift-system feature on the well-being of those concerned, rather than on the impact of the shift system as a whole, one might be able to offer more meaningful suggestions as to what constitutes a better form of shift system. The present study focused on the impact of the number of consecutive night shifts worked on the health and well-being of two groups of nurses (permanent night and rotating shift). All nurses completed a copy of the Standard Shiftwork Index, which is a set of questionnaires designed for comparing the effects of different types of shift system on large groups of workers. It includes measurements of psychological ill-health, physical ill-health, chronic fatigue, social and domestic disruption, attitudes towards shiftwork, sleep quality and sleep habits. Results showed clearly the impact of the number of consecutive nights worked on health and well-being, not directly, but indirectly through the impact on sleep duration and sleep quality. Sleep duration was shown to increase with more consecutive nights worked. This in turn was found to predict sleep quality, which in turn was found to be the stronger direct predictor of psychological and physical ill-health i.e. better health was associated with longer and better quality sleeps. Explanations in terms of circadian adaptation are discussed.