HealthDay News) – Implementation of a five-hour period of protected sleep is feasible for medical interns on long shifts, resulting in interns getting more uninterrupted sleep and feeling more alert the next day, according to a study published in the Dec. 5 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Kevin G. Volpp, MD, PhD, from the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and colleagues randomly assigned 106 medical interns and senior medical students at two sites to either a standard shift (extended duty overnight shifts of ≥30 hours) or a protected sleep shift (protected five-hour sleep time from 12:30 AM–5:30 AM). The Institute of Medicine had recommended a protected sleep period of five hours during any shift longer than 16 hours when residents are in the hospital for prolonged duty ≤30 hours.

The researchers found that mean sleep time improved significantly for the protected sleep group at both sites (2.86 vs. 1.98 hours and 3.04 vs. 2.04 hours). This group was also significantly less likely to have call nights with no sleep (5.8% vs. 18.6% and 5.9% vs. 14.2%). The interns in the protected sleep groups also reported feeling significantly less sleepy after on-call nights.

“This study indicates that protected sleep periods during prolonged duty are feasible, likely to increase the amount of uninterrupted sleep interns obtain during extended duty overnight shifts, reduce the number of 24-hour periods awake, and improve behavioral alertness in the morning following on-call nights,” Volpp and colleagues conclude.

One author is an employee of Pulsar Informatics.

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