Moderate sleep loss boosts risk of medical errors 53%, study finds

Even moderate levels of sleep deprivation among physicians can cause a significant increase in the risk of medical errors, a study published Dec. 7 in JAMA Network Open found.

Researchers surveyed physicians at 11 academic medical centers nationwide on various wellness topics, including sleep, between November 2016 and October 2018. More than 11,300 physicians provided survey responses on sleep habits, and 7,762 responded to questions about self-reported medical errors.

Residents had higher rates of sleep-related impairment than attending physicians, and residents in surgical specialties reported the most sleep deprivation among the 12 medical specialties included in the analysis. Among attending physicians, emergency medicine specialists reported the most sleep-related impairment, while surgical specialists reported the least. 

After adjusting for such factors as training status and practice specialty, researchers found physicians who reported moderate levels of sleep deprivation had a 53 percent greater chance of self-reporting a clinically significant medical error. This figure jumped to 97 percent for physicians with the highest rates of sleep deprivation.

"Sleep-related impairment was associated with increased burnout, decreased professional fulfillment and increased self-reported clinically significant medical error," study authors concluded. "Interventions to mitigate sleep-related impairment in physicians are warranted."

To view the full study, click here.

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