Sleep disturbances in frontline health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic: a social media survey study
Stewart NH, Koza A, Dhaon S, Shoushtari C, Martinez M, Arora VM. Sleep disturbances in frontline health care workers during the covid-19 pandemic: social media survey study. J Med Internet Res. 2021;23(5):e27331. doi:10.2196/27331
BACKGROUND: During the COVID-19 pandemic, health care workers are sharing their challenges, including sleep disturbances, on social media; however, no study has evaluated sleep in predominantly US frontline health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to assess sleep among a sample of predominantly US frontline health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic using validated measures through a survey distributed on social media.
METHODS: A self-selection survey was distributed on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for 16 days (August 31 to September 15, 2020), targeting health care workers who were clinically active during the COVID-19 pandemic. Study participants completed the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) and Insomnia Severity Index (ISI), and they reported their demographic and career information. Poor sleep quality was defined as a PSQI score ≥5. Moderate-to-severe insomnia was defined as an ISI score >14. The Mini-Z Burnout Survey was used to measure burnout. Multivariate logistic regression tested associations between demographics, career characteristics, and sleep outcomes.
RESULTS: A total of 963 surveys were completed. Participants were predominantly White (894/963, 92.8%), female (707/963, 73.4%), aged 30-49 years (692/963, 71.9%), and physicians (620/963, 64.4%). Mean sleep duration was 6.1 hours (SD 1.2). Nearly 96% (920/963, 95.5%) of participants reported poor sleep (PSQI). One-third (288/963, 30%) reported moderate or severe insomnia. Many participants (554/910, 60.9%) experienced sleep disruptions due to device use or had nightmares at least once per week (420/929, 45.2%). Over 50% (525/932, 56.3%) reported burnout. In multivariable logistic regressions, nonphysician (odds ratio [OR] 2.4, 95% CI 1.7-3.4), caring for patients with COVID-19 (OR 1.8, 95% CI 1.2-2.8), Hispanic ethnicity (OR 2.2, 95% CI 1.4-3.5), female sex (OR 1.6, 95% CI 1.1-2.4), and having a sleep disorder (OR 4.3, 95% CI 2.7-6.9) were associated with increased odds of insomnia. In open-ended comments (n=310), poor sleep was mapped to four categories: children and family, work demands, personal health, and pandemic-related sleep disturbances.
CONCLUSIONS: During the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly all the frontline health care workers surveyed on social media reported poor sleep, over one-third reported insomnia, and over half reported burnout. Many also reported sleep disruptions due to device use and nightmares. Sleep interventions for frontline health care workers are urgently needed.
Department of Internal Medicine, Advocate Lutheran General Hospital