Understanding of circadian disruptions important for patient and clinician health

Long-distance travelers and shift workers routinely experience interruption of their circadian rhythms. Health care professionals are also at particular risk of circadian disruption, and sleep deprivation is a key risk factor for burnout.

During the session Shifting to Hawai‘i: Jet Lag, Shift Workers, and Sleep for Health Care Providers, a panel of sleep medicine experts will review the most recent evidence and recommendations for those groups. The session will be held on Sunday from 8:15 am to 9:15 am, in Room 314 of the convention center.

Nathan Nowalk, MD
Nathan Nowalk, MD

“Disruption in the circadian rhythm is associated with broad health implications, including neurologic, psychiatric, cardiometabolic, and immune disorders,” said Session Chair, Nathan Nowalk, MD, Sleep Medicine Fellow at the University of Chicago. “The short-term and long-term health implications of circadian disruption are vast, and, for our patients, shift work disorder and jet lag remain two of the most common sleep disorders. So, it is imperative that clinicians are familiar with current recommendations for managing these common conditions.”

Recent guidelines published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine on the best practices in sleep for shift workers can help health care professionals advise and treat their patients with sleep disorders. Importantly, Dr. Nowalk said, clinicians need to understand that best practices for maintaining healthy sleep apply to more than their patients.

“We need to recognize and understand how to address sleep problems, not just for our patients, but for ourselves as well,” he said. “Sleep deprivation and circadian disruption have been linked very closely to burnout and medical errors in our profession, and that’s at all levels, from physicians to nurses to everybody in the health care field.”

While circadian rhythm and sleep disorder sessions are common at the CHEST Annual Meeting, Dr. Nowalk believes this and other sleep sessions will have added resonance for CHEST 2023 attendees.

“With the meeting in Hawaiʻi and attendees coming from all over the globe, a lot of us will be dealing firsthand with jet lag,” he said. “I think this session will give people a thorough reminder about why sleep is important and finding a healthy balance in circadian rhythm is critical for the overall health of our patients and for ourselves.”

Presentations in the session will include:

  • Health Implications of Circadian Rhythm Disruption – Phyllis Zee, MD, PhD, Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine
  • Adjusting to Jet Lag: Strategies for Patients and You – Mariam Louis, MD, FCCP, University of Florida College of Medicine
  • Best Practices in Sleep for the Shift Worker – Nathan Nowalk, MD, University of Chicago Medicine
  • Finding Healthy Sleep for the Health Care Provider – Ritwick Agrawal, MD, MS, FCCP, Baylor College of Medicine