The latest study from researchers at the SUNY Downstate Medical Center reveals that physicians are hesitant to ask and patients are hesitant to talk about sleeping habits. The results from a poll of 78 patients was released at the Associated Professional Sleep Societies’ (APSS) Annual Meeting and showed that primary care physicians (PCPs) do not generally screen for sleep disorders.
In the poll, although 69 patients (89 percent) had at least one sleep complaint, only 11 patients (14 percent) were asked by PCPs about their sleep habits. Researchers concluded that because patients do not proactively inform PCPs about sleep complaints, PCPs should consider routine screenings for sleep disorders.
“The bottom line is that sleep disorders are highly prevalent with the three most common sleep disorders (being) insomnia, sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. … What’s happening is that … physicians aren’t asking and patients aren’t telling about their sleep problems,” said Dr. Clete Kushida, M.D., Ph.D., director, Stanford Center for Human Sleep Research, and associate professor, Stanford University Medical Center, Stanford, Calif., who recently conducted a similar study on restless leg syndrome. “The training that physicians get in medical school in many cases does not give sufficient training or sufficient education about sleep or sleep disorders. And patients, because they don’t necessarily understand the ramifications of their sleep problems on their health, may tend to minimize their sleep problems.”
Only 14.1 percent of patients volunteered information about their sleeping habits to their PCP. “It was pretty evenly matched, about 14 percent in both cases, either the patients didn’t tell or the physician didn’t ask,” said Kushida. “I’d say it seems like a two-way communication issue.”
According to the National Sleep Foundation, at least 40 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders, including obstructive sleep apnea, yet more than 60 percent of adults have never been asked about the quality of their sleep by a physician and fewer than 20 percent ever initiated a discussion. As a result, commonly recognized sleep disorders may be misdiagnosed. Obstructive sleep apnea has a significant negative impact on a person’s quality of life and has been linked to several co-morbidities, such as hypertension, stroke, diabetes and numerous cardiovascular problems.
“This should be a wake-up call, especially to the physicians to take a few minutes to ask about the patient’s sleeping habits because we do know that sleep impacts so many areas of functioning,” said Kushida. “It’s worth the physician’s time to ask a few questions about the person’s sleep to see if they’re getting adequate amounts of sleep, to see if they’re sleeping during the day time despite a decent amount of sleep, to see if they have insomnia, apnea (or) other major sleep disorders.”
The study’s author was not available for comment.
For more information about obstructive sleep apnea, visit www.sleepapneainfo.com.