Primary Care Physicians Lack Confidence Diagnosing Sleep Disorders

A new report has shared  survey data that showed most primary care physicians view sleep health as an important aspect of patient care, but they often feel uncomfortable diagnosing and treating sleep disorders.

“Sleep disorders, as diagnosable diseases in and of themselves, can lead to poor quality of life and premature death if untreated,” said Karen J. Klingman, PhD, RN, associate dean and associate professor in the College of Nursing at Upstate Medical University at the State University of New York, told Healio Primary Care. “In addition, untreated sleep disorders adversely affect outcomes of other diseases such as obesity, diabetes, depression and cardiovascular disease — to name a few — by interacting to make it harder to maintain healthy weight, control blood glucose, maintain non-depressed mood, or maintain healthy blood pressure, for example.”

Unlike past years, clinicians now know and respect the power of healthy sleep, with 85% rating it “highly important” for cardiopulmonary health. “Klingman and colleagues also found that knowledge of sleep disorders was considered highly important by 88% of participants, and that 82% considered diagnosing these disorders highly important,” writes reporter Erin Michael. “However, many participants also reported lower comfort levels with discussions about sleep disorders (78%), overseeing and monitoring these disorders (62%), diagnosing the disorders (60%), and treating patients with the disorders (48%).” 

Klingman said the lack of comfort regarding sleep health among PCPs may be due to the limited amount of sleep health training during medical school. “According to the researchers, 80% of participants said it would be useful to have an efficient sleep disorder screener,” Michael writes. “The respondents also said that time constraints limited their ability to address sleep disorders.” 

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