Power of a nap: Med students use sleep pods to research sleep deprivation

by: WFTV.com Updated:

Getty File Photo (STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

Nestled in a library where University of Central Florida medical students quietly study are two white pods where those same sleep-deprived students can catch 40 winks.

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“Every time I’ve used them, I was really tired and I’ve fallen asleep every time,” said UCF medical student Kim Burcher.

Students like Burcher are spending 12 hours a day in libraries cramming for finals.

>> Photos: Sleep pods at UCF medical school

What has not been studied before, was how much sleep medical students were actually getting.

So UCF began a 10-week study of 42 medical students.

They were hitting the books more than 60 hours a week but only sleeping about six hours a night.

“By the end of first and second year of medical school, we actually see a decline in mental health where [ratings] of anxiety and depression symptoms are higher,” said Dr. Katherine Daly, of the UCF Counseling and Wellness Center.

So, on top of the first real research on sleep amounts for medical students, UCF introduced noise-canceling pods with floating chairs to give students a chance to squeeze in a power nap.

It may only be a temporary solution when it comes to solving sleep deprivation in medical students, but in the 10-week study, the pods were used about 300 times.

Researchers said medical students often resort to pills, like Ambien, to solve their irregular sleeping habits, and that lack of sleep will only get worse as the students move on with their careers.

They hope the data can be used by universities to promote better sleep hygiene for medical students, but for now, researchers are hoping students can learn themselves the power of a power nap.

“It’s nice not to have to drive home to take a nap, and it’s nice not to have to sit in a chair sitting up,” Burcher said.

The results of the 10-week study will be published in the summer.

The researchers hope to focus their efforts on the health effects sleep deprivation creates for medical students, such as depression, stress and memory loss.