Thursday, March 6, 2008
Physicians are Sleep Deprived
When patients complain about insomnia or difficulty staying asleep, I must admit I have no personal point of reference to what they are experiencing. I can fall asleep within minutes of my head hitting that nice soft pillow. I can doze off in a movie, sitting around with a group of friends or reading medical journals. The American College of Chest Physicians has now published results of a survey that shows the majority of doctors are sleep deprived.
I suspected it before. We just don't get enough sleep. Doctors reported they scrimp on sleep during the work week and catch up on weekends. Interestingly most physicians reported the lack of sleep did not adversely affect their work. However, 18% admitted they missed family or leisure activities in order to sleep. I think this may be a bit of the "Superman" syndrome. Oh sure, other humans need sleep for top level function, but not me! I'm a Doctor!
The National Sleep Foundation maintains that 8 to 9 hours of sleep for adult humans is optimal for alertness, memory and problem solving. Other studies have found that lack of sleep can more than double the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, but that too much sleep can also double the risk of death.
I would like to see this same survey broken down by age. It is a well known fact that new, young doctors have a very different view of their place in the profession and they are not willing to sacrifice their own personal needs (sleep, recreation, family, outside activities) for the profession of medicine. Work is one aspect of their life, not their entire life. I suspect that younger doctors are not sleep deprived. They have found a way for better balance.
I know for a fact that you can train yourself, over time, to get by on less sleep. I sleep less than anyone in my family or my friends. Is this a good thing? I don't know but it does allow me to indulge in blogging and reading and writing and yawn!!!! I'm tired.
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