What is the role of sleep in physician burnout?

J Clin Sleep Med. 2020 May 15;16(5):807-810. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.8412. Epub 2020 Feb 28.


The occurrence of physician burnout is widespread among clinicians and academic faculty, who report indicators such as low quality of life and poor work-life balance. Chronic insufficient sleep, whether due to extended work hours, circadian misalignment, or unrecognized sleep disorders, is a critically important risk factor for burnout that is overlooked and under-studied, and interventions to promote healthy sleep may reduce burnout susceptibility among attending physicians. While strategies to reduce burnout among resident and attending physicians have been under-evaluated, evidence suggests a need to address burnout at both individual and organizational levels. Solutions have been offered that are applicable to many stakeholders, including employers; payers; licensing and certification boards; state and federal regulatory agencies; and physicians and researchers. As more studies are undertaken to evaluate how these approaches impact burnout, two questions need to be addressed: (1) What is the role of sleep in the crisis of burnout, specifically among attendings, who are particularly under-studied? (2) Is restoration of healthy sleep the fundamental mechanism by which burnout interventions work? It is essential for key stakeholders to consider the role of sleep, sleepiness, and sleep disorders in order to optimize any efforts to mitigate the present crisis in physician burnout, particularly among attending physicians, an understudied group.