Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Effects of sleep disruption on cognitive performance and mood in medical house officers.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987; 295 doi: (Published 12 December 1987) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987;295:1513
  1. I J Deary,
  2. R Tait
  1. Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh.


    Twelve medical house officers were tested on a battery of memory, concentration, and work related tasks after three conditions: a night spent off duty; a night spent on call; and a night spent admitting emergency cases. Short term recall, but not digit span, concentration, or work related abilities, was impaired after a night of emergency admissions. A night spent on call had no effect on cognitive performance. Self reported mood scores showed that house officers were more deactivated (indicating a lack of vigour and drive) after nights of emergency admissions but not after nights on call. Significant between subject differences were found for five of the eight cognitive tests. Though loss of sleep and long hours of work have an effect on memory and mood, the individual differences among doctors are the main source of the variance in performance of tasks.