Lack of Sleep Not Necessarily Detrimental to Surgical Skills

However, sleep deprivation ups mental workload for medical students performing surgical task

WEDNESDAY, May 9 (HealthDay News) -- Sleep-deprived medical students are able to perform and learn surgical skills, although they have an increased total subjective mental workload, according to a study published in the January issue of the American Journal of Surgery.

Jonathan M. Tomasko, M.D., from the Penn State Hershey Medical Center, and colleagues conducted a randomized study of 31 medical students with expertise on a virtual reality part-task trainer to assess the effects of modest sleep deprivation on technical and cognitive function and the ability to learn new skills. Participants were randomly allocated to a control or sleep-deprived group, and were given a novel task on the second testing day.

The researchers found that control and sleep-deprived groups demonstrated no difference in performance or learning of surgical tasks. There was a subjective increase in sleepiness, as measured using the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. The sleep-deprived group showed an increase in total subjective mental workload, based on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration-Task Load Index.

"We demonstrated no difference in ability to perform a previously learned simulated surgical task or to learn a new simulated surgical task while moderately sleep deprived," Tomasko said in a statement. "However, in order to achieve the same level of performance, sleep-deprived subjects demonstrated increased cognitive workload compared to their rested counterparts."

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