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January 13, 1999

Reducing Sleepiness on the Roads and on the Wards

Author Affiliations

Margaret A.WinklerMDIndividualAuthorPhil B.FontanarosaMD, Senior EditorsIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 1999;281(2):134-135. doi:10-1001/pubs.JAMA-ISSN-0098-7484-281-2-jac80019

To the Editor: I found the Council Report1 on sleep and motor vehicle crashes ironic. The authors state, "To protect public health and safety, the American Medical Association recommends continued research . . . to . . . prevent the deterioration of driver alertness and performance." However, while truck drivers' longest duty period is 15 hours and most "normal" workers work approximately 8-hour days, house officers are routinely required to work 36 hours or more at a stretch.2 While there seems to be no debate about the need for drivers to get adequate sleep, there remains significant debate about the effect of sleep deprivation on house officers' performance.3,4 Dement5 bemoaned the "absence of teaching about sleep, notably the near absence of such teaching in medical schools." Perhaps the medical schools do not want future house officers to know the consequences of what might happen to them. Alternatively, perhaps the students are too sleepy to take in the information.