Sleep Deprivation May Affect Our Genes – Fight Fatigue campaign response

A new study, The effect of sleep deprivation and disruption on DNA damage and health of doctors, published today (24 January 2019) in the journal Anaesthesia, demonstrates that disrupted sleep is associated with DNA damage.

Commenting on the study findings, Professor Andrew Klein, Consultant Anaesthetist from Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge and Editor-in-Chief of Anaesthesia said: “The impact of fatigue is well evidenced, and we know that fatigue has a significant impact on logical reasoning and vigilance. The results of this study demonstrate that acute sleep deprivation and a frequently disrupted sleep cycle are associated with DNA damage, providing further evidence that the health of on-call doctors working overnight shifts could be affected. This is because increased DNA damage has been linked to the development of chronic diseases and cancer.

“This study is important as it will allow future researchers to study the impact of changing the way we work and other interventions by evaluating DNA breaks in the same way as the authors of this ground-breaking study have done”.


The Association of Anaesthetists (in coordination with the Royal College of Anesthetists and the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine) launched the Fight Fatigue campaign last year to raise awareness about the impact a lack of sleep has on doctors and calls for action to change attitudes across the NHS.


Dr Emma Plunkett, Fight Fatigue project group lead and consultant anaesthetist, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, said “Sleep is a key part of maintaining our health and wellbeing and the issue of fatigue amongst our NHS workforce is concerning. Our Fight Fatigue campaign seeks to change attitudes across the NHS to ensure everyone understands the risks of fatigue and how to mitigate them.  We hope that by collectively taking responsibility for making changes to working practice, we can improve working conditions for staff which will have a positive impact on their health and will ultimately benefit patient care.”

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