Physicians Say They Need More Sleep

FRIDAY March 7, 2008 -- American doctors aren't getting the amount of sleep they need to function at their best, and work schedules may be one of the reasons for that lack of sleep, a new analysis suggests.

An Internet survey of 581 doctors found that the physicians reported sleeping an average of 6.5 hours a night during their work week, but most said they needed at least 7 hours of sleep a night. The doctors said they made up for lost sleep on weekends or on days off by sleeping an average of 7.5 hours a night.

Other findings from the survey, released this week by the American College of Chest Physicians Sleep Institute:

  • 43.1 percent of respondents said their current work schedule didn't allow time for adequate sleep.
  • Respondents rarely reported insomnia or difficulty getting to sleep or maintaining sleep, but 21.8 percent said that, at least a few times a week, they didn't feel refreshed when they woke up in the morning.
  • The doctors reported more caffeine consumption than the general population -- 93 percent of them reported having at least one caffeinated beverage a day, compared with 81 percent of the general population. Most doctors said they used caffeine out of habit, rather than to help boost wakefulness.

"Call hours during training and in the practice of medicine desensitize physicians to the importance of sleep. The pervasive message is that sleep is optional or dispensable," Dr. Barbara Phillips, chair of the ACCP Sleep Institute, said in a prepared statement. "Self-sacrifice also may be seen as part of the lifestyle. This may impact physicians' awareness of their own, and their patients', sleep deprivation lifestyles."

"The upside of chronic self-imposed sleep deprivation is that it essentially eliminates insomnia complaints," Phillips noted. "Although adequate sleep is important, too much time in bed is a common finding among insomniacs; the lack of insomnia complaints among physicians probably relates to the chronic, low-level sleep deprivation that many experience."

The survey also found that 83.6 percent of the doctors reported being in very good or excellent health, compared with 56 percent of the general population.

"Although physician sleep habits may not be ideal, physicians understand the relationship between behavior and health. Physicians are less likely to smoke, to be obese, or to be sedentary, which are all lifestyle factors that can have a negative impact on overall health," Dr. Rochelle Goldberg, of the ACCP Sleep Institute steering committee, said in a prepared statement.

Posted: March 2008


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