To Sleep, Perchance to Dream: Acute and Chronic Sleep Deprivation in Acute Care Surgeons

Jamie J. Coleman, Caitlin K. Robinson, Ben L. Zarzaur, Lava Timsina, Grace S. Rozycki, David V. Feliciano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Acute and chronic sleep deprivation are significantly associated with depressive symptoms and are thought to be contributors to the development of burnout. In-house call inherently includes frequent periods of disrupted sleep and is common among acute care surgeons. The relationship between in-house call and sleep deprivation among acute care surgeons has not been previously studied. The goal of this study was to determine prevalence and patterns of sleep deprivation in acute care surgeons. Study Design: A prospective study of acute care surgeons with in-house call responsibilities from 2 level I trauma centers was performed. Participants wore a sleep-tracking device continuously over a 3-month period. Data collected included age, sex, schedule of in-house call, hours and pattern of each sleep stage (light, slow wave, and rapid eye movement [REM]), and total hours of sleep. Sleep patterns were analyzed for each night, excluding in-house call, and categorized as normal, acute sleep deprivation, or chronic sleep deprivation. Results: There were 1,421 nights recorded among 17 acute care surgeons (35.3% female; ages 37 to 65 years, mean 45.5 years). Excluding in-house call, the average amount of sleep was 6.54 hours, with 64.8% of sleep patterns categorized as acute sleep deprivation or chronic sleep deprivation. Average amount of sleep was significantly higher on post-call day 1 (6.96 hours, p = 0.0016), but decreased significantly on post-call day 2 (6.33 hours, p = 0.0006). Sleep patterns with acute and chronic sleep deprivation peaked on post-call day 2, and returned to baseline on post-call day 3 (p = 0.046). Conclusions: Sleep patterns consistent with acute and chronic sleep deprivation are common among acute care surgeons and worsen on post-call day 2. Baseline sleep patterns were not recovered until post-call day 3. Future study is needed to identify factors that affect physiologic recovery after in-house call and further elucidate the relationship between sleep deprivation and burnout.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)166-174
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American College of Surgeons
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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