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Doctors-in-training: wake up bright?

Doctors-in-training: Wake up bright?

In medical training, hospital interns and residents must often care for patients after getting little sleep. Does this affect their performance? The much-debated question prompted a study of 26 surgeons-in-training to determine whether sleep deprivation impaired their cognitive and motor performance when they were on duty every other night.

For 18 to 19 days, the residents kept a sleep diary and underwent five tests each morning to measure cognition, visual and auditory alertness and hand-eye coordination. The scientists defined sleep deprivation as less than 4 hours of continuous sleep in the previous 24 hours, which occurred in 89 percent of the on-duty nights studied. When sleep deprivation occurred, total sleep averaged 3 hours, and the longest uninterrupted sleep averaged 2.2 hours.

Although residents showed "trivial" improvement on two tests when they obtained some sleep just before testing, the researchers said repetitive sleep deprivation did not impair the residents' test performances or, by extension, their patient care. The evidence "does not support arbitrary recommendations to limit working hours of residents."

The report by Timothy F. Deaconson of the Medical College of Wisconsin, in Milwaukee, and his colleagues appears in the Sept. 23/30 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION.
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Title Annotation:effects of sleep deprivation on and residents
Publication:Science News
Date:Oct 1, 1988
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