WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- Lack of sleep is an important factor
in many health problems, yet most primary care physicians don't ask patients
about their sleep habits or problems according to a survey released today by
the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). And while most doctors admit to having
limited knowledge about sleep-related issues, they rarely consult with sleep
experts for information or refer patients to sleep centers, the survey found.
"The paradox happening in doctors' offices can be dangerous to your
health," said Richard L. Gelula, executive director of the National Sleep
Foundation. "While our survey shows primary care physicians believe sleep is
important to personal health and should be an essential part of a regular
checkup, they do not feel they can take the time to discuss it."
More than two-thirds (69%) of primary care physicians believe they should
raise issues about sleep with their patients, however, nearly all (96%) say
the discussion is more likely to occur if the patient initiates it. "People
are not always aware that their sleepiness may be due to a sleep disorder,"
Gelula added. "And if you don't bring up the issue with your doctor, chances
are it won't be discussed. That means a sleep problem that often can be
treated goes undiagnosed," Gelula noted. Time is the major factor; nearly
three-quarters (70%) of those surveyed said discussing sleep issues takes time
away from other medical problems.
"These findings clearly indicate that people must be empowered to take the
first step in dealing with their sleep problems," Gelula said. To foster the
beginning of discussions, NSF has prepared a simple guide, "Sleep Talk With
Your Doctor," which includes information about your sleep, which can be shared
with your physician. It is available on the NSF Web site,
Importance and Perceptions of Sleep Issues
While they may not ask their patients about sleep, primary care physicians
believe that sleep is important to good health and place sleep and exercise
just behind nutrition in importance.
Doctors may be waiting for their patients to address sleep problems
because they think the problems are less prevalent than what patients report.
Physicians said about 16% of their patients have a sleep disorder, and 14%
suffer from insomnia. Yet the NSF 2000 Sleep in America poll found that 62%
of adults experienced a sleep problem a few nights a week or more in the past
year and 58% reported symptoms of insomnia. In addition, the physicians do
not consider a diagnosis and treatment of insomnia as urgent as other health
conditions, such as asthma, sleep apnea, and migraine headaches.
Need for More Knowledge and Tools
A key to making sleep-related issues a higher priority for physicians
could be offering more continuing education and diagnostic tools. More than
three-quarters of respondents (80%) said they are not as knowledgeable about
sleep problems as they should be; nearly all want more training in sleep
issues during their residency with continued education made available,
particularly in the area of insomnia. More than 80 percent agreed the
availability of effective treatments and simple diagnostic tools would
encourage them to prioritize sleep-related issues with their patients.
However, physicians don't seem to take advantage of expertise currently
available; more than half (54%) of the respondents admitted they don't usually
consult with a specialist in sleep medicine.
The telephone survey of 300 primary care physicians -- internal medicine
and family practice physicians -- was conducted for the National Sleep
Foundation by WB&A Associates between May 15-July 7, 2000. The margin of
error is plus or minus 5.6 percent. The study was supported in part by an
unrestricted educational grant from GlaxoWellcome, Inc.
The National Sleep Foundation is an independent nonprofit organization
dedicated to improving public health and safety by achieving public
understanding of sleep and sleep disorders, and by supporting public
education, sleep-related research, and advocacy. NSF is based in Washington,
SOURCE National Sleep Foundation