Limited information is available regarding sleep medicine education worldwide. Nevertheless, medical education has been blamed for the under-recognition of sleep disorders among physicians. This study was designed to assess the knowledge of Saudi undergraduate medical students about sleep and sleep disorders and the prevalence of education on sleep medicine in medical schools as well as to identify the obstacles to providing such education.
We surveyed medical schools that were established more than 10 years ago, asking fourth- and fifth-year medical students (men and women) to participate. Seven medical schools were selected. To assess knowledge on sleep and sleep disorders, we used the Assessment of Sleep Knowledge in Medical Education (ASKME) Survey, which is a validated 30-item questionnaire. The participants were separated into two groups: those who scored ≥60% and those who scored <60%. To assess the number of teaching hours dedicated to sleep medicine in the undergraduate curricula, the organizers of the major courses on sleep disorders were contacted to obtain the curricula for those courses and to determine the obstacles to education.
A total of 348 students completed the survey (54.9% male). Among the participants, 27.7% had a specific interest in sleep medicine. More than 80% of the study sample had rated their knowledge in sleep medicine as below average. Only 4.6% of the respondents correctly answered ≥60% of the questions. There was no difference in the scores of the respondents with regard to university, gender, grade-point average (GPA) or student academic levels. Only five universities provided data on sleep medicine education. The time spent teaching sleep medicine in the surveyed medical schools ranged from 0-8 hours with a mean of 2.6 ±2.6 hours. Identified obstacles included the following: (1) sleep medicine has a lower priority in the curriculum (53%) and (2) time constraints do not allow the incorporation of sleep medicine topics in the curriculum (47%).
Medical students in the surveyed institutions possess poor knowledge regarding sleep medicine, which reflects the weak level of education in this field of medicine. To improve the recognition of sleep disorders among practicing physicians, medical schools must provide adequate sleep medicine education.