Sleep deprived physicians have less ability to focus and to react


A Portuguese study, conducted in the emergency department of a central hospital, involving a group of physicians who were working at daytime between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. and another group in which physicians worked 24 hours straight or at least the full night shift, thus being sleep deprived, showed very different results. Physicians of the sleep deprived group (at least 12 hours of night work/week) revealed reduced ability to focus and motor skills, as well as less responsiveness than the first group of non-sleep deprived practitioners. The research, conducted by Inês Sanches, Fátima Teixeira, José Moutinho dos Santos and António Jorge Ferreira, involved 18 physicians, of which 13 women and 5 men, and was published in Acta Médica Portuguesa, July/August 2015.

Sleep Quality Index was used to track the presence of sleep pathology and Epworth Sleepiness Scale was used to assess subjective daytime sleepiness. Actigraphy and a sleep diary were used to assess sleep hygiene and sleep-wake cycles. In order to demonstrate the effects of sleep deprivation, the Toulouse-Piéron test (concentration test) was applied, as well as a three-test battery of reaction time after night duty.

In terms of results, the sleep deprived group showed higher daytime sleepiness on the Epworth Sleepiness Scale and sleep deprivation was higher during the week. The average duration of sleep during the night work period was 184.2 minutes for the sleep deprived group and 397.7 minutes for the non-sleep deprived group. On the Toulouse-Piéron test the sleep deprived group showed the highest number of omissions, with a worse concentration index. Psychomotor tests evaluating the response to simple stimuli showed greater latency response and more errors in the sleep deprived group; on the test assessing the reaction to instructions the sleep deprived group exhibited a lower degree of perfection. The fine motor skills test revealed no statistically significant difference between groups.

The study concluded that medical practice involves a significant amount of sleep deprivation in some health professionals and that they are unaware of its harmful effects, both for themselves and for their patients, which may interfere with good clinical practice.


See the study here: