Sleep as a Vital Sign of Health

It used to be the occasional article in the mass media to more recent headlines proclaiming sleep the new health frontier or the third pillar of health, however what is clear nowadays is that physicians and patients understand the importance of sleep.

The Institute of Medicine estimates that between 50 and 70 million US adults have a sleep disorder of which the majority still have not been diagnosed. Perhaps 20%, but sleep disorders are still grossly under diagnosed. The sleep arena is significant, and the current health care delivery system is trying to figure it out and determine the value.

In the recent editorial “Sleep as a vital sign: why medical practitioners need to routinely ask their patients about sleep” as published in the Sleep Health journal, the authors ask the question “should sleep be assessed as part of routine medical evaluation?”

“The primary benefit of physicians routinely asking about sleep would be the detection and successful treatment of sleep disorders, which are associated with major burden in themselves and exacerbate problems in the context of other diseases”.

“The benefits of asking/inquiring about sleep may improve patient engagement. Not only is poor sleep associated with many of the chronic conditions for which patient engagement is key, but improvements in sleep (as with other healthy behaviors) may lead to improvements in these and other chronic conditions”.

“One other area of patient experience that may be improved is adherence to medical treatments. For example, sleep disturbance is associated with a lower likelihood of adherence to medication regimens, poor sleep quality is associated with lower diabetes control, and Continuous Positive Airway Pressure-adherent sleep apnea patients are more likely to adhere to medication regimens”.

This level of awareness leaves us more confident than ever about the future of sleep medicine. Ultimately, that future must encompass all of sleep disordered breathing, from obstructive sleep apnea to insomnia.

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Source: Sleep Health Journal 2015

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