Sleep deprivation: it's a fact of life for both practicing physicians and residents alike. As a hospital administrator, you know this, but there's no doubt you wish you could help your doctors get a least a little more shuteye.

You're in luck: cutting-edge research has identified strategies that physicians can use to rest more efficiently while performing their duties during shifts or prior to procedures. Help your doctors by employing the following science-based tips:

Implement protected sleep periods.

A study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that establishing set sleep breaks during the hours of 12:30 to 5:30 a.m. allowed residents to get an extra hour of sleep on duty, raising their average of sleep during a long shift from two hours to three hours.

Each resident gave his or her work phone to a colleague during their protected sleep break to ensure no interruptions. Review your residents' schedules to build in protected breaks, so each doctor rotates to cover the others.

Break up call and outpatient duties.

Research from the University of Michigan found that new residents had the most difficulty coping with the exhaustion that results during a shift from overnight hospital duty to outpatient clinic the next day. If you can, schedule a day in between day-to-night night work periods for each intern to allow their bodies to adjust.

Consider a new disclosure policy.

A study from the Hospital of Special Surgery and Harvard Medical School examined the idea that that doctors disclose to elective surgery patients the fact that they are sleep-deprived, so that patients can elect to reschedule their procedure, opt for a different physician, or sign a consent waiver in case they decide to go ahead with their surgery.

This is something interesting to think about; offering your patients these kinds of options can obviously help avoid malpractice issues in the grand scheme of things. Discuss the idea with your risk management team and your physicians.

Don't encourage heroics.

Obviously, doctors accept sleep deprivation as a part of their work. This can be detrimental in the occasions they may go ahead with complex procedures when they're exhausted.

Stress to your doctors the importance of opting out of any procedure they lack the mental stamina to do until they're rested. Don't encourage heroics or ego when it comes to patient safety.

Observe your staff on an ongoing basis.

Walk the wards and see how tired your staff really is. When you observe close up how well — or not so well — your doctors are coping, you'll have the most practical viewpoint as to how to help them rest and recover more effectively. Start keeping a lookout today!