June 15, 2024

Vitavo Yage

Best Health Creates a Happy Life

Tips for healthy sleep in health care workers help mitigate dangers of sleep deprivation

3 min read

October 08, 2023

2 min read

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Table of Contents

Key takeaways:

  • Lack of adequate sleep can lead to dangerous situations for health care workers and their patients.
  • A statement from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has tips on managing sleep and fatigue.

HONOLULU — Managing sleep adequately is important for health care workers, as a lack of it can lead to burnout, fatigue and potentially dangerous mistakes, according to a speaker at the CHEST Annual Meeting.

“Our sleep has a direct correlation on how we care for the patients,” Ritwick Agrawal, MD, FCCP, director of sleep medicine at Northwell Health and Huntington Hospital, said during his presentation. “Just like most of the general population, health care workers have underlying sleep disorders, but perhaps a little more compounded.”

Woman awake at night

Sleep problems among health care workers can lead to potentially dangerous risks for medical errors, motor vehicle accidents, mood swings, burnout and stress. Image: Adobe Stock

These sleep disorders range from acute issues such as sleep fragmentation or insomnia to chronic disorders such as shiftwork sleep disorder, obstructive sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and narcolepsy.

Agrawal noted that acute sleep deprivation is common in health care workers even when they aren’t doing shiftwork.

“We get up early to help with the family, we get done at work at 5, 6 or 7, and then we come home and chart for some time, maybe until 8 or 9, then it’s time for rest and we maybe watch some TV for a few hours,” Agrawal said. “We get maybe 5 or 6 hours of overall sleep a night, so sleep deprivation is fairly common on top of those additional shifts we do every once in a while.”

Poor sleep hygiene, including excessive use of caffeine, the use of electronic devices before bed or irregular sleep schedules, as well as procrastinating sleep, depression, anxiety and PTSD can all contribute to sleep issues, Agrawal said, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic also led to many mental health issues that, in turn, can affect sleep.

And these sleep problems can lead to potentially dangerous risks for errors, motor vehicle accidents, mood swings, burnout and stress, according to Agrawal.

“This is incredibly important to recognize where we are reaching that state,” he said. “Burnout is a real problem. All of us are susceptible to it.”

In order to mitigate sleep disorders, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine released a list of ways health care providers can improve sleep health.

These tips include prioritizing a regular sleep schedule, aiming for at least 7 hours of sleep a night, unwinding for 30 to 60 minutes before bed, avoiding electronics in bed, avoiding alcohol and limiting caffeine, making your sleeping space as dark and quiet as possible and staying active and getting outdoor light as much as possible during waking hours.

If an individual is experiencing fatigue, it is recommended that they use naps strategically, bank extra sleep on off days, use bright lights while on nightshifts and take short breaks to keep alert.

Additionally, there is a support line for health care providers who are struggling with any stressors that should be utilized if necessary. Physicians can call 1-888-409-0141 for anonymous mental health assistance.



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