According to an investigation conducted recently health professionals who aren’t sleeping enough are twice as likely to suffer symptoms of depression when compared to their well-rested counterparts.
The study was conducted by Columbia University researchers and it was published in Journal of Affective Disorders. It also found that people suffering from sleep disorders are 50% more likely than other people to report psychological distress and 70% more inclined to express anxiety.
This set of issues could exacerbate the situation caused by the pandemic, which is already inflicting a severe burden on healthcare workers, according to the lead researcher Marwah Abdalla, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.
“Right today, a huge portion of healthcare workers are quitting their jobs due to the stress, producing an acute shortage of healthcare professionals across the country,” said Abdalla. “With fewer workers on the job the remaining staff have to be on the job longer and for longer periods of time which can increase their sleep issues and stress.”
The Columbia group conducted a series surveys to evaluate the sleeping habits and psychological health of their colleagues during the initial peak of the pandemic in New York City. The data showed that over 70% of healthcare workers had at least moderate insomnia. Despite the fact that the number of COVID cases dropped, more than four out of 10 healthcare professionals still reported insomnia 10 weeks after the first survey. However the second COVID wave was over and work schedules returned to some normal levels, and the number of insomnia sufferers dropped.
Abdalla said, “We know that sleep deprivation can affect the quality of care our patients receive and can increase medical errors. However, it could cause symptoms such as depression and anxiety.”
Following an in-depth investigation and a follow-up the researchers discovered that healthcare workers who reported having poor sleep also had higher levels of anxiety, stress and depression than healthcare workers who were more restful.
Italians are more sloppy than European Counterparts
The situation in Italy isn’t any different. A recent study found that Italian physicians have more stress-related issues than their counterparts in other European countries.
“There aren’t any specific studies on sleep disorders among Italian physicians, but many colleagues have turned to our Center to resolve the symptoms of insomnia that have worsened over the course of the last 2 years,” said Luigi Ferini Strambi, MD, head physician at the Sleep Disorders Center of San Raffaele Hospital in Milan.
He stated that it was crucial to intervene quickly in an emergency. This will prevent these types of problems from affecting our work and allow us to focus on urgent situations.
It’s not surprising that healthcare workers were under extreme stress during the COVID-19 epidemic. Sleep quality is an issue for doctors, at the very least in Italy. A 2015 survey of 2,000 newly certified physicians, conducted by the National Association for Hospital Aides and Assistants, showed that when physicians were not feeling well, they often blamed their ill health on insomnia. This was especially true for hospital workers.
Countermeasures and Wake-up Calls
While anxiety, stress, and depression are common in healthy people, “sleep is essential to mental well-being,” said Abdalla. “While we don’t know if mental stress is the cause of poor sleep or if poor sleeping habits contributed to anxiety and depression among healthcare professionals This study suggests that improving sleep can reduce mental health issues, which is particularly important for doctors.”
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is recommended to treat insomnia. It also suggests increasing the amount of time spent taking breaks and resting, and installing nap pods at work — especially hospitals — for staff to use during long shifts.
Abdalla says that if you are overwhelmed by work, it is worth taking a nap for 20-30 minutes.
Abdalla stated that previous research has revealed that insomnia can increase the risk of developing chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes. “If you are having trouble sleeping, consider this an alarm call.”
This article was originally published on Univadis, Medscape.
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