3 Questions on the Trends in Sleep Medicine

 

Sleep disorders affect 50 to 70 million US adults,1 but there are a multitude of ways you can promote healthy sleep practices among your patients.

To gain more insight, Neurology Consultant reached out to Raman Malhotra, MD, who is a sleep medicine physician and an associate professor of neurology at Washington University School of Medicine. He is also the Secretary/Treasurer of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine Board of Directors.

NEURO CON: What tips would you give to health care providers to ensure they receive the recommended 7 hours of sleep per night?

Raman Malhora: Make sure you prioritize sleep, as it is important not only for optimal function the next day but for overall health. Try to keep a regular sleep schedule (bedtime and wake time), even on your days off. Make sure you sleep in a relaxing environment at night that is quiet, dark, and a comfortable temperature. 

It is important to prioritize sleep, just as you would other important aspects of your health, such as nutrition and exercise. This means making sure your schedule allows for an adequate amount of sleep. If you are not able to get an adequate amount of sleep, reserve time in the afternoon for a short nap. 

NEURO CON: One of the most common sleep conditions in the United States is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). And with the increased prevalence of childhood obesity over the years came a rise in pediatric OSA. What diagnostic and therapeutic challenges arise when managing children vs adults with OSA? And how have you overcome these challenges?

RM: One of the biggest diagnostic challenges is when children—or their caregivers—recognize that they may have sleep apnea or other sleep disorder. Sleep apnea in children can present in different ways. Not only can it present with excessive daytime sleepiness but also behavioral issues, irritability, and hyperactivity. Many times, it is longstanding and not recognized by caregivers, teachers, and peers. Education directly to parents and teachers, as well as health care providers, can help increase recognition of this treatable condition.  

NEURO CON: In your opinion, do you think wearable technology has a role in diagnosing, and even managing, sleep disorders? What are the pros and cons of relying on such technology?

RM: I think wearable technology is important to our field because it allows patients to be more active in monitoring their sleep habits. Many of the wearables are helpful for measuring how much sleep each patient is trying to get daily. Especially in our society with increasing demands and varying schedules, wearable technologies can help patients keep track of how much sleep they are getting. 

At this point, the technology alone is not helpful for making medical diagnoses, and we still recommend patients speak to their medical providers about their sleep disorders. The pros of this type of technology is that is it accessible to the public and creates interest in improving the patient's sleep and health. The cons, just like all new technology, is finding the appropriate role it can play in evidence-based therapy and management of patients.  

 

Reference:

  1. The state of sleep health in America. American Sleep Apnea Association. https://www.sleephealth.org/sleep-health/the-state-of-sleephealth-in-america/.