A brief intervention to reduce burnout and improve sleep quality in medical students

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© 2020 The Author(s). Background: Perceived stress, burnout, and poor sleep quality are high among medical students. Interventions designed to target these issues are necessary to promote the health and well-being of medical students. The purpose of this study was twofold: 1) to assess the feasibility of implementing a sunrise alarm clock intervention with medical students and 2) to evaluate the impact of the intervention on perceived stress, burnout scores, and sleep quality. Methods: We conducted a feasibility study to evaluate the efficacy of a two-week, sunrise alarm clock intervention in combination with electronic device removal at bedtime. We assessed first- A nd second-year medical students' perceived stress, burnout scores, including Emotional Exhaustion, Depersonalization, and Low Sense of Personal Achievement, and sleep quality before and after the intervention. In addition, we measured smartphone addiction prior to the intervention. Results: A total of 57 students consented to participate, of which 55 completed both the pre- A nd post-assessments (3.5% attrition). The mean age of the participants was 24.8 ± 1.9 years, 50.9% (n = 29) identified as women, and 68.4% (n = 39) identified as white. Pre-intervention, 42.1% (n = 24) of students met criteria for smartphone addiction and 77.2% (n = 44) met criteria for poor sleep quality. In addition, 22.8% (n = 13) of participants had high emotional exhaustion, 64.9% (n = 31) high depersonalization, and 42.1% (n = 24) low sense of personal accomplishment prior to the intervention. Following the two-week intervention, participants showed improvements in emotional exhaustion (p = 0.001, Cohen's d = 0.353), depersonalization (p = 0.001, Cohen's d = 0.411) low sense of personal accomplishment (p = 0.023, Cohen's d = 0.275), perceived stress (p <.001, Cohen's d =.334), and sleep quality (p < 0.001, Cohen's d = 0.925). The number of participants who reported poor sleep quality decreased to 41.8% (n = 23), demonstrating a significant decline (p = 0.026). Participants also improved subjective sleep quality (p < 0.001, Cohen's d = 1.033), sleep duration (p = 0.001, Cohen's d = 0.431), sleep latency (p < 0.001, Cohen's d = 0.433), and sleep efficiency (p = 0.021, Cohen's d = 0.673). Conclusions: These findings suggest that the two-week sunrise alarm clock protocol with electronic device removal was effective in improving sleep quality and reducing burnout scores, and perceived stress. However, additional research comparing this intervention to a proper control group is needed to draw meaningful conclusions about the effectiveness of this intervention.