DARIEN, IL – Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many patients are delaying or avoiding care for common, treatable sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea and insomnia. Putting off needed care for sleep disorders can have negative long-term consequences for overall health and increase medical risks, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, depression and sleepiness-related car accidents.
“Sleep is essential for overall health, and there are many options for patients to receive sleep care safely,” said Dr. Indira Gurubhagavatula, chair of the AASM COVID-19 Task Force and associate professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “Since the pandemic started more than a year ago, we’ve learned a lot about the transmission of the coronavirus and how to manage sleep care safely and with minimal risk.”
During Patient Safety Awareness Week, March 14-20, the AASM is emphasizing the infection control protocols in place at sleep centers to provide patients with a safe environment. Some of the evidence-based strategies recommended by the CDC that sleep centers have implemented include:
- The use of face coverings by employees and patients
- Use of personal protective equipment, including N95 masks, gloves and face shields
- Screening for symptoms before entry into clinical spaces, including temperature checks, and instructing patients to call ahead when making appointments for routine care
- Increased frequency of sanitization practices and surface cleaning, such as cleaning and disinfecting equipment, rooms and high-touch areas (doorknobs, lamp switches), using EPA-registered, hospital-grade disinfectants, and using more disposable equipment and accessories
- Removal of extra tables and chairs to reduce maximum room occupancy, and/or adding plexiglass dividers when appropriate and feasible
- Improving air quality to reduce potential for exposure, including ventilation or filtration systems and/or use of outdoor spaces
Sleep physicians and sleep centers also offer convenient options such as telemedicine and home sleep apnea tests to make it easy for patients to have a socially distanced experience and still get the help they need.
“I urge patients not to delay care for sleep disorders, which are very treatable, but can lead to more serious health problems if ignored or allowed to worsen,” said Gurubhagavatula. “A sleep study is safe, and accredited sleep centers provide comfortable accommodations for patients.”
A directory of AASM-accredited member sleep centers is available at sleepeducation.org.
About the American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Established in 1975, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) is advancing sleep care and enhancing sleep health to improve lives. The AASM has a combined membership of 11,000 accredited member sleep centers and individual members, including physicians, scientists and other health care professionals.