Study: Four hours of sleep is not enough for residents on overnight shifts

Residency Program Insider, May 1, 2019

Want to receive articles like this one in your inbox? Subscribe to Residency Program Insider!

A recently published study in the journal Sleep emphasized the fact residents really aren’t getting enough sleep when they work overnight shifts—even when it seems as if they are. According to the results of the study, which looked at data tracking the sleep patterns of 24 post-graduate year one (PGY-1) residents, “Sleeping four or fewer hours overnight yielded no significant improvement on any performance measure compared with zero sleep.”

The data in the study also revealed that many residents also do not know how to effectively take a nap to reenergize. Rachel Salas, MD, sleep neurologist, director of interprofessional education at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, insists that naps should not last for hours on end because taking such a long nap actually transitions the body into a deeper stage of sleep, making the person groggier when they do wake. For residents in particular, this can create problems when the grogginess affects decision-making and responsiveness. In place of these extended naps, Salas suggests residents nap for less than an hour to maintain their alertness.

At the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), residents take turns covering each other’s calls so that other residents are able to have periods of interrupted time to rest. Karen Miotto, MD, interim director of the Behavioral Wellness Center at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA emphasizes the importance of this system and says, “If you’re still on pager and know you can get call, that in and of itself is one eye opened and one eye shut, and you’re less able to relax. If you know somebody is covering your pager for 20 minutes you truly are free to relax.”


Source: American Medical Association

Want to receive articles like this one in your inbox? Subscribe to Residency Program Insider!