Physician burnout is a serious and growing threat to the medical profession and may undermine efforts to maintain a sufficient physician workforce to care for the growing and aging patient population in the United States. Burnout involves a host of complex underlying associations and potential for risk. While prevalence is unknown, recent estimates of physician burnout are quite high, approaching 50% or more, with midcareer physicians at highest risk. Sleep deprivation due to shift-work schedules, high workload, long hours, sleep interruptions, and insufficient recovery sleep have been implicated in the genesis and perpetuation of burnout. Maladaptive attitudes regarding sleep and endurance also may increase the risk for sleep deprivation among attending physicians. While duty-hour restrictions have been instituted to protect sleep opportunity among trainees, virtually no such effort has been made for attending physicians who have completed their training or practicing physicians in nonacademic settings. It is the position of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine that a critical need exists to evaluate the roles of sleep disruption, sleep deprivation, and circadian misalignment in physician well-being and burnout. Such evaluation may pave the way for the development of effective countermeasures that promote healthy sleep, with the goal of reducing burnout and its negative impacts such as a shrinking physician workforce, poor physician health and functional outcomes, lower quality of care, and compromised patient safety.
© 2020 American Academy of Sleep Medicine.