Poll Finds That Physicians Often Sacrifice Sleep for Work

March 11, 2008

Like the general population, many physicians admit that their work schedule prevents them from getting an optimal amount of sleep. But few of them report that sleepiness affects their work performance or ability to respond to other daily concerns, according to study findings published online in March in CHEST Physician.

TUESDAY, March 11 (HealthDay News) -- Like the general population, many physicians admit that their work schedule prevents them from getting an optimal amount of sleep. But few of them report that sleepiness affects their work performance or ability to respond to other daily concerns, according to study findings published online in March in CHEST Physician.

Rochelle Goldberg, M.D., of the American College of Chest Physicians Sleep Institute steering committee, and colleagues sent e-mails containing a 30-question poll and an open-ended comments section to 5,006 randomly selected members of the American College of Chest Physicians, of whom 581 (12.1 percent) responded.

The researchers found that median sleep times were 6.5 hours on work nights and 7.5 hours on days off, up to 1.5 hours per night less than the seven to eight hours most respondents considered optimal. Although 43 percent of respondents reported that their work schedule prevented them from getting enough sleep, and 27 percent admitted napping or dozing at work during the preceding month, only 10 percent said that sleepiness interfered with daily activities.

"There are many possible questions raised by these findings," the authors write. "Are those who chose to respond to this poll the good and happy sleepers, or the less satisfied lot? If the physician population is similarly challenged by sleep hours and structure, do they recognize this in themselves? Responses to perceived health, daily function suggest that the impact is not strongly noticed. How does this perception position physicians to respond to their patients on issues of sleep and work?"

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