A Cross-Sectional Snapshot of Sleep Quality and Quantity Among US Medical Students

Acad Psychiatry. 2017 Oct;41(5):664-668. doi: 10.1007/s40596-016-0653-5. Epub 2017 Jan 13.


Objective: Fatigue is a well-known risk factor for mood disturbances, decreased cognitive acuity, and impaired judgment. Sleep research in medical students typically focuses on sleep quantity, but less is known about the quality of a student's sleep. The purpose of this investigation was to examine the subjective sleep quality and quantity of US medical students and to identify differences in sleep characteristics across demographic groups.

Methods: Medical students (N = 860) representing 49 medical colleges completed the Medical Outcomes Study Sleep Scale and a demographic questionnaire between December 2015 and March 2016.

Results: Although participants reported obtaining nearly 7 h of sleep per night, the majority of students reported indicators of poor sleep quality. First and third year students reported higher rates of sleep-related problems compared to second and fourth year students. First and second year students reported the highest levels of sleep somnolence. Ethnic minority students reported significantly lower levels of sleep adequacy and sleep quantity and significantly higher levels of sleep somnolence than Caucasian students.

Conclusions: Impaired sleep quality may contribute to fatigue in medical students even when sleep quantity seems adequate. Students appear to begin medical school with disrupted sleep patterns that may not improve until their final year of study. Education regarding proper sleep habits and the significant role of sleep quality in sustaining healthy sleep is especially important in the early stages of medical education. Minority, first year, and third year students may benefit the most from learning new behaviors that promote sufficient sleep quality during periods of sustained stress.

Keywords: Health; Medical Education; Medical Students; Sleep; Survey.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Fatigue / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Sleep*
  • Students, Medical / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult