Sleep in the Medical Student Population

Conference: The European Conference on Education (ECE2022)
Title: Sleep in the Medical Student Population
Stream: Higher Education
Presentation Type: Oral Presentation
Lauren Glen, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom


Sleep is an essential physiological mechanism required for daily functioning and good mental and physical health. Sleep is thought to play a crucial role in learning and constructing memories. Medical students are more likely to suffer from disrupted sleep and associated negative side effects than other population groups. Colleagues and students frequently report poor sleep, compounded by shift work. Any lessons from the current literature, however small, are worth considering with the aim of improving the quality of life of healthcare workers, and consequently our patients. As medical students will be responsible for patient care, protecting and improving their sleep is a rational and realistic intervention to safeguard their well-being and their patients. To achieve this, a better understanding of sleep in the medical student population is required to improve their quality of life and possibly their academic performance and healthcare system.

Research available emphasises that sleep quantity and quality are important, but risks suggesting medical students’ achievements which are substandard are a direct result of their sleep, ignoring the many factors that affect both sleep and academic performance. Frustratingly, the majority of the research is cross-sectional work conducted over a short period and only able to show associations, limiting generalisability. Several areas which have been pinpointed for interventions and future research include sleep medicine education, educational policies to promote a work-life balance, screening for sleep problems, the timing of lectures and examinations and initiating cultural changes. This initial work is to be used as the foundation for a doctoral thesis.

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