What are the consequences of lack of sleep?

Many doctors have recently shared difficult and disturbing stories about mistakes they made due to lack of sleep. We asked Dr. Liora Berzag-Peru to explain why this happens and what are the long-term consequences of continued lack of sleep.

The Health Ministry recently made major changes to shorten shifts for hospital residents, after some 2,590 of them submitted their resignations during their 36-hour shifts. The challenge, they had said, is that it is almost impossible to work or function effectively without sleep.
As part of this fight, many doctors shared their experiences of sleep deprivation, but it seems that the most disturbing story of all was that of the director of Alyn Hospital, Dr. Morit Beri, who explained what happened to him in a Facebook post. shared publicly.

After a long shift, while sleeping, he answered a phone call from a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Through his mist, the doctor said the premature baby’s breathing tube could be pulled out.

When she woke up and went to the NICU, she was horrified to see the baby without ventilation and did not remember the phone call. Fortunately, the baby was fine, but this story certainly raises questions: Would you want a sleep-deprived doctor to make life-and-death decisions for you or your child?
To better understand this story and others, and how lack of sleep affects our body and brain, we asked Dr. Liora Bergaz-Peru what happens to our body when we don’t get enough sleep and how dangerous it is. Here are your answers.

How long does a person need to sleep to function?

This is a difficult question to answer, since the need is individual. One approach states that a person will need to sleep until they wake up spontaneously. Another approach examines the “awake state” of a person after being awakened after a variable number of hours of sleep. Consider that the need for sleep also changes with age. Questionnaire-based studies have indicated that most people will feel rested after seven to nine hours of sleep a night.

What is sleep deprivation?

Sleep deprivation occurs when sleep is insufficient to feel fully awake, function normally, and be healthy, either due to a short sleep time (quantitative decline) or due to disturbances during sleep (qualitative decline). Like any disease, sleep deprivation can be acute, lasting a day or two, or chronic, a condition in which the body is deprived of sleep for a long time.

Has the effect of sleep deprivation been investigated?

Many studies have been done on sleep deprivation in hospitals, especially for the benefit of patients who suffer not only from the disease, but often also from the hospitalization itself, noises around them, medications, too many bright lights, and even being in an unfamiliar environment. There are many ways that lack of sleep can harm patients.

What happens when doctors and other hospital staff are deprived of sleep?

Resident studies have shown that many physicians misdiagnose patients after working a shift of 24 hours or more compared to a normal workday for the same physician.

An interesting study indicated fewer correct diagnoses in colonoscopy results when the same doctor woke up suddenly the night before. These are mistakes that occur when deprivation is acute, but of course they increase over a longer period of sleep deprivation.

Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to fatal accidents, even at work, in the case of diagnoses made by these doctors, but also in the personal lives of people who have not slept, both psychologically and physiologically.

Does the lack of sleep also affect the health of the doctors?

Yes. In a state of chronic deficiency, there is ongoing damage to neurons, which of course leads to many other damages, from mood swings to brain dysfunction, heart disease, hormonal changes, and more.


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