Undetected Sleep Disorders Contribute to Healthcare Worker Burnout

Investigators seek to identify the prevalence of sleep disorders and estimate the cross-sectional association between sleep disorders and burnout symptoms among faculty and staff in a large teaching hospital system.

Undiagnosed sleep disorders are associated with occupational burnout among healthcare providers, according to results of a study published in JAMA Network Open.

Though more than half of physicians in the United States report burnout and sleep deficiency is common among healthcare workers, the prevalence of sleep disorders and their association with burnout among healthcare workers has not yet been determined.

To evaluate this, data from 1047 hospital workers who attended the Sleep Health and Wellness (SHAW) program and completed a sleep disorder screening were analyzed. Burnout was assessed using the Maslach Burnout Inventory Human Services Survey and was defined as an emotional exhaustion score of ≥27 and/or a depersonalized domain score of ≥10. Personal fulfillment was evaluated with the Professional Fulfillment Index.

A total of 29% of participating individuals screened positive for ≥1 sleep disorder. The most common sleep disorder was insomnia (14%), followed by obstructive sleep apnea (12%), and shift work disorder (11%). The number of individuals who screened positive for a sleep disorder who were previously undiagnosed and untreated was 92%. A total of 29% of participating individuals screened positive for burnout and 49% reported low levels of professional fulfillment. A positive sleep disorder screen result was associated with increased odds of burnout of 3.67 (95% CI, 2.75-4.89) and reduced odds of professional fulfillment of 0.53 (95% CI, 0.40-0.70).

A limitation to this study was that it was self-selecting for individuals who already were motivated to attend a sleep health program, likely skewing the results to overestimate the prevalence of sleep disorders. Future studies investigating the effectiveness of the treatment of previously undetected sleep disorders on the burnout rate of hospital staff are warranted.

The results of this study indicated the high prevalence of previously undetected and untreated sleep disorders among hospital staff, which was associated with a nearly 4-fold increase in the odds of professional burnout. The prevalence of sleep disorders and burnout varied widely across professional groups. Treatment of sleep disorders may help to reduce professional burnout among hospital staff.


Weaver MD, Robbins R, Quan SF, et al. Association of sleep disorders with physician burnout. [published online October 30, 2020]. JAMA Netw Open. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.23256