Sleep deprivation, also known as insufficient sleep, is the condition of not having enough sleep. It can either chronic or acute and may vary widely in severity. A chronic sleep-restricted state can cause fatigue, daytime sleepiness, clumsiness, and weight loss or weight gain.
It adversely affects the brain and cognitive function. However, in a subset of cases sleep deprivation can, paradoxically, lead to increased energy and alertness and enhanced mood; although its long-term consequences have never evaluated, it has even been used as a treatment for depression.
Can sleep loss in hospital patients lead to an uptick in medical malpractice lawsuits? A new study from researchers at Rice University and Baylor University suggests that is indeed the case. “Endorsements of Surgeon Punishment and Patient Compensation in Rested and Sleep-Restricted Individuals. The research examined how sleep or the lack of it can impact whether a patient wants to punish a doctor and seek compensation after a medical error.
The researchers interested in the link between sleep and malpractice lawsuits because patients are often sleep-deprived. Medical personnel frequently awaken hospital patients to administer medications, conduct tests and perform other necessary treatment.
The anesthesia and surgeons
To conduct the study, the researchers recruited 44 healthy adults who regularly slept seven hours or more per night. The participants read eight medical-error scenarios; such as doctors administering insufficient anesthesia and surgeons leaving instruments in patients’ bodies. Then they rated the errors on 10 factors, such as surgeon competence, quality of care, error severity, recommended surgeon punishment and recommended patient compensation.
After completing the questionnaire; half the participants instructed to continue their normal sleep patterns; while the other half told to get less than six hours of sleep. After four nights, they repeated the questionnaire. The researchers found that the people who slept fewer than six hours per night four times more likely than their well-rested counterparts to recommend the maximum punishment for doctors and the maximum compensation for patients.
The subjective sleepiness
They also exhibited more mood disturbance, lapses of attention and subjective sleepiness. Abby Corrington, a graduate student in psychological sciences at Rice and one of the study’s authors, said the research has important implications for hospital administrators and medical professionals.
“Health care professionals routinely acknowledge the importance of sleep for patient health; but most hospital environments are very poorly for sleep, with the noise, light and staff interruptions. “We hope our research will shed light on how sleep deprivation can affect mood and cognitive functioning and provide medical professionals with information to help promote patient health and reduce legal expenses.”