Introduction Stores’ questionnaires survey in 1998 found that UK medical students received a median of 20 minutes education about sleep. We asked whether this situation has improved.
Methods A cross sectional survey of 34 medical degree courses in the UK adapted from Stores ‘1998 questionnaire including time spent on sleep teaching medicine, sub-topics covered, and forms of assessment.
Results 25 (74%) UK medical schools responded to our survey. The time spent devoted to sleep medicine during undergraduate training was median 1.5 hours, mode <1 hour, and mean 3.2 hours (standard deviation = 2.6, figure 1). Only two schools had a sleep syllabus or dedicated compulsory module (8%, figure 2). When asked whether sufficient time is allotted to sleep and its disorders, 50% said yes, 38% said no and 13% were unsure. Free text comments made by our respondents had recurring themes: sleep medicine is typically subsumed into teaching by other specialities, with the result that course directors are uncertain about the details of provision; obstructive sleep apnoea is often identified as the key or only relevant sleep disorder, knowledge of sleep disorders is regarded as optional, and there is inertia about the prospect of change. However, a substantial minority of respondents are enthusiastic about making improvements to the sleep education they currently provide.
Discussion Sleep medicine remains a neglected topic despite agreement on the importance of sleep in general health. Obstacles to change are similar to those noted by Stores 20 over 20 years ago, including the views that ‘sleep is not a core topic’ or the ‘curriculum is already too crowded’. Given that doctors are often the first point of contact for the public, we recommend that medical schools should establish and implement a sleep medicine curriculum. We suggest a simple syllabus, available on request.
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