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Journal of Medical Internet Research


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.



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COVID-19, burnout, demographic, frontline health care workers, health care worker, insomnia, outcome, sleep, sleep disorders, social media, stress, survey