Are sleep-deprived doctors dangerous to their patients?

sleep-deprivedSleep deprivation is an epidemic, this according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC estimates nearly 70 millions Americans suffer from a sleep or wakefulness disorder. Sleep deprivation can affect our health and our ability to perform tasks. In the case of doctors, who are often sleep deprived or have shift work, does sleep deprivation make them cause more mistakes during surgery?

You know that when you don’t get enough sleep the night before, the next day’s tasks seem grueling and you probably make more errors. In the case of surgeons, it’s been found that they actually build their schedules to ensure adequate sleep before surgery.


The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, looked at 39,000 patients undergoing surgery. Researchers paired patients with the same surgeon; one patient got the surgeon after a night shift, and the other got the surgeon after seven hours of not treating patients. The comparisons involved 1,400 surgeons and followed patients 30 days post-surgery.

The results were that a patient’s outcome didn’t differ based on the surgeon’s schedule before the surgery.

Although the findings can help reassure us that no matter how long a surgeon has worked they can still successfully perform surgery, some people are still skeptical that the information will be used to suggest surgeons can work longer hours or perform surgeries all day and night. The researchers, on the other hand, suggest that surgeons are doing a good job at self-regulating themselves and ensuring they do not become victims of sleep deprivation.

Know all about sleep deprivation

tips for better sleepSleep deprivation occurs when a person does not receive adequate sleep – quality and quantity. Causes for sleep deprivation include:

  • Voluntary behavior
  • Personal obligations
  • Work
  • Medical problems

Anyone can be at risk for sleep deprivation, but those who have shift work, a medical condition or are caregivers, are at greater risk of sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation, as mentioned, can affect health in numerous ways including:

  • Mood – irritable, lack of motivation, anxious
  • Performance – fatigues, lack of focus and concentration, etc.
  • Health – can contribute to hypertension, diabetes, obesity
  • Injury – sleep deprivation can increase a person’s risk of injury

Best foods for better sleep

cherry-for-pain-reliefAn easy way to combat sleep deprivation is to incorporate foods into your diet which will promote sleep and not keep you awake. The best foods for better sleep are:

  • Fish
  • Tart cherry juice
  • Whole grains
  • Kale
  • Bananas
  • Fortified cereals
  • Herbal tea

On the other hand there are foods which can promote sleep deprivation and should be limited or avoided. They are:

  • Coffee
  • Meat
  • Spicy foods
  • Soda
  • Dark chocolate
  • Alcohol
  • Fast food

At best, these foods should definitely be avoided prior to sleep, although fast food and soda should be avoided all together.

By eating the best foods for sleep you can ensure a better quality and quantity of sleep and promote overall good health.

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