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Matt Morgan and Peter Brindley: Why it’s time we all woke up to the importance of sleep

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For too long, medicine has been a cult that deifies workaholism and mocks those who “fuss” about sleep, say Matt Morgan, Honorary Senior Research Fellow at Cardiff University, Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine and Head of Research and Development at University Hospital of Wales, and Peter Brindley, Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Medical Ethics, Anesthesiology at the University of Alberta, Canada.  But we know that lack of sleep kills. Data have consistently shown how it kills slowly and silently by increasing the likelihood of cancer, heart disease, immunosuppression and weight gain. Poor sleep also kills suddenly and loudly through motor vehicle crashes and workplace trauma. More and better sleep is needed for all but the question is do we care enough to do the right thing? 

Regardless of whether insomnia is limited to medicine or is, instead, a society wide issue, we can likely all agree that we need a cultural shift. This starts by senior folks speaking up and standing side by side with junior colleagues. We should not, cannot, and need not stand by as doctors work hours that we would never condone for pilots or bus drivers. Lessons must be heeded. Fortunately, these are lessons that we have known for decades. Patient safety matters, and so does practitioner safety. 

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Source: BMJ Opinion, 28 July 2019

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