Sleep and Alertness Among Interns in Intensive Care Compared to General Medicine Rotations: A Secondary Analysis of the iCOMPARE Trial

Makayla Cordoza, Mathias Basner, David A. Asch, Judy A. Shea, Lisa M. Bellini, Michele Carlin, Adrian J. Ecker, Susan K. Malone, Sanjay V. Desai, Joel T. Katz, David W. Bates, Dylan S. Small, Kevin G. Volpp, Christopher G. Mott, Sara Coats, Daniel J. Mollicone, David F. Dinges

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Medical interns are at risk for sleep deprivation from long and often rotating work schedules. However, the effects of specific rotations on sleep are less clear. Objective To examine differences in sleep duration and alertness among internal medicine interns during inpatient intensive care unit (ICU) compared to general medicine (GM) rotations. Methods This secondary analysis compared interns during a GM or ICU rotation from a randomized trial (2015–2016) of 12 internal medicine residency programs assigned to different work hour limit policies (standard 16-hour shifts or no shift-length limits). The primary outcome was sleep duration/24-hour using continuous wrist actigraphy over a 13-day period. Secondary outcomes assessed each morning during the concomitant actigraphy period were sleepiness (Karolinska Sleepiness Scale [KSS]), alertness (number of Brief Psychomotor Vigilance Test [PVT-B] lapses), and self-report of excessive sleepiness over past 24 hours. Linear mixed-effect models with random program intercept determined associations between each outcome by rotation, controlling for age, sex, and work hour policy followed. Results Of 398 interns, 386 were included (n = 261 GM, n = 125 ICU). Average sleep duration was 7.00+0.08h and 6.84+0.10h, and number of PVT lapses were 5.5+0.5 and 5.7+0.7 for GM and ICU, respectively (all P >.05). KSS was 4.8+0.1 for both rotations. Compared to GM, ICU interns reported more days of excessive sleepiness from 12AM–6AM (2.6 vs 1.7, P < .001) and 6AM–12PM (2.6 vs 1.9, P = .013) and had higher percent of days with sleep duration < 6 hours (27.6% vs 23.4%, P, .001). GM interns reported more days with no excessive sleepiness (5.3 vs 3.7, P < .001). Conclusions Despite ICU interns reporting more excessive sleepiness in morning hours and more days of insufficient sleep (<6 hours), overall sleep duration and alertness did not significantly differ between rotations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)717-721
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of graduate medical education
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Critical Care
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency
  • Sleep
  • Wakefulness
  • Work Schedule Tolerance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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