Sleep Tips for Sleep-Deprived Doctors and Healthcare Professionals

Getting enough sleep has been touted by healthcare professionals as one of the most important things you can do for your health. Yet, many people — especially healthcare professionals — have a hard time getting in their recommended eight hours a night. With everything from on call shifts, to 12 hour days, it’s a hard ask for sleep-deprived doctors and HCPs to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. With this in mind, we asked the Figure 1 community for their thoughts on sleep health.

Here is what more than 400 sleep-deprived doctors and healthcare professionals had to say.

How Well Do You Sleep as an HCP?

We asked our respondents how difficult it is to maintain a consistent sleep schedule as an HCP and as you might expect, it’s not easy. Of our respondents, 35% said it is very difficult, 44% said somewhat difficult, 13% kept a neutral stance, and only 8% said it was easy. 

It comes as no surprise that the majority of HCPs have difficulty finding consistency with their sleep. While everyone, including healthcare professionals, can struggle with sleep, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make healthy sleep habits. As one of our respondents replied, “trying to keep a usual sleep schedule is almost impossible but important.” 

While everyone is going to have different tricks and methods that work for them, the most common theme seems to be to treat sleep as a priority. So for all the sleep-deprived doctors and HCPs out there, here are some sleep tips from the Figure 1 community.

Train Yourself to Sleep

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association reaffirms the notion that good sleep is crucial to your health. However, the study suggests that the most important aspect of sleep, at least to deter cardiovascular risks, is consistency. Sleep cannot be treated as a currency. You can’t sleep 12 hours one day a week to make up for the four hours you lost earlier; in fact having a sporadic sleep schedule can be detrimental to your health. 

As Dr. Horvat, a sleep specialist from the Cleveland Clinic, stated, “Keeping a regular, set schedule is more likely to put your body in a place where it needs to be to get a full night’s sleep going forward.”

Here’s what the Figure 1 community recommends.

“I had to train myself, like Pavlov’s dog, with a sleep mask. Once I got that, I sleep like a baby. Practice, lots of practice.”

– Licensed Vocational Nurse

“Trying to keep a usual sleep schedule is almost impossible but important. We are creatures of habit so after about a month our bodies adjust to the schedule better.”

– Registered Nurse

Set Boundaries

According to Figure 1 HCPs, one of the best things you can do for your sleep life is to take control of your awake life. Setting boundaries, whether at work or in your personal life, helps to ensure that you can make sleep a priority. One respondent said, “I’m a solo practice homebirth midwife. I take only two births a month so that I’m not constantly sleep-deprived.” Another stated, “Taking a full 24hr. day off each week to let the batteries recharge and clear the mind is invaluable. I take sunset Friday through sunset Saturday.” 

Even understanding what lifestyle helps you thrive can be helpful. One registered nurse stated, “I do better with swing shifts like 10-10 and it’s so helpful to have healthy relationships with friends and family.”

Find Ways to Wind Down

Winding down doesn’t always have to be something you do right before bed. Finding time each week for activities that help to calm the mind and the body can help you stay more relaxed at work so when it is time to sleep, it comes more naturally. 

One family medicine physician responded saying that regular meditation helps them to wind down, while a registered nurse said they rely on “45 minutes of good cardiovascular exercise 3 times a week.” 

Finding good sleep as an HCP is not as easy as counting sheep, but it is clear that many Figure 1 members have found ways to prioritize sleep in their lives. We hope you can find some inspiration from their anecdotes to improve your sleep hygiene.

Published April 10, 2023

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