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Telemedicine for Sleep: Now More Than Ever in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Behavioral Sleep Medicine

There is no doubt that COVID-19 has an immense impact on your patients. As surveys show, as a consequence of the COVID-19 outbreak, patients and caregivers prefer remote treatment. This trend increased greatly the need and the adoption of telemedicine. Even more when it comes to sleep care.

The global pandemic has raised concerns about financial stability, the worry for family members who are sick or at risk, one’s wellbeing, and how the world will look the day after. The results are increased stress and anxiety, depression, and an overall deterioration in mental health, including the ability to get a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, due to the need of the health institutions to deal with acute care of COVID-19 patients with the severe direct and secondary disease, poor sleep is deprioritized. However, the connection between sleep and anxiety-depression disorders suggests that there is a definite need to address the acute reactive insomnia caused by the ongoing pandemic.

Sleep during these uncertain times: sleep statistics according to Sleeprate’s data

The initial analysis of Sleeprate’s data indicates that there is an increase of 5.4% in the number of people who complain of difficulties falling asleep, maintaining sound sleep, and waking up non-refreshed in March-April 2020 compared to the same period last year. The reported complaints are insomnia symptoms.

A glimpse into Sleeprate’s data between January – June 2020 indicates an increase of insomnia symptoms in the college student population (from 78% in January to 89% in June in over 1500 college students in different University campuses in the US).

Patients, doctors, and caregivers seek telemedicine solutions

According to The Physicians Foundation’s surveys, due to the pandemic restrictions, about 50% of the of America’s Physicians are now using telehealth. In 2018 only 18% of US physicians reported using telemedicine. Patients also indicate their need and willingness to use telemedicine. According to a recent survey by Accenture, at least 60% of the patients said they intended to continue using technology for communicating with their caregivers in the future. Instead of feeling stress while spending time in waiting rooms or at a doctor’s office, telemedicine tools offer the option to be treated in the comfort of the patient’s own home. For caregivers, it decreases the chance of exposure to the COVID-19 and provides new opportunities to care for patients efficiently.

Thus, the need for sleep treatment and the increasing adoption of telemedicine, indicate a clear trend of the increasing use of remote sleep care in the foreseeable future.

For doctors and caregivers- Telemedicine key recommendations for sleep disorders.

According to the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine (SBSM), telemedicine for sleep is more than feasible. Here are the key recommendations by the SBSM for specific sleep conditions, gathered by a Task Force of behavioral sleep medicine experts, in light of the public health crisis caused by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19):

When managing acute insomnia, assist your patients in adopting behavioral and environmental controls:

(1) DETECT, the patient will track his/her sleep with a sleep diary

(2) DETACH, meaning suggest your patients avoid bedroom activities and get out of bed if not sleeping

(3) DISTRACT, which means practicing cognitive control and imagery distraction techniques. Suggest these over the use of sleep aid pills.

For irregular sleep schedules, assist in scheduling your patient-specific times for going to bed and waking up. Exposure to light close to waking up should be between 30-60 minutes, help create a healthy routine of food consumption, exercise and etc., and the patient should avoid screens and bright light before bedtime.

Better patient care – the need for access to patients’ sleep data

In regards to the recent trend and global pandemic, digital health technology can be used to support important decision making in both diagnostic and treatment processes, especially in the field of behavioral sleep medicine. Patients and providers alike can be empowered by using digital tools.

The need for a deeper understanding of the patient’s sleep and progress requires data collection (DETECT by the SBSM). Using the patient’s nightly records, whether subjective or objective, including average sleep efficiency, sleep latency, and recovery, the sleep expert will get an understanding of daytime sleep-related feelings and routines, as well as sleep data trends (DETACH by the SBSM). Using this valuable information, the provider can offer recommendations, prescribe medicines, schedule follow-ups, to help the patient to adhere and comply with the therapy (DISTRACT by the SBSM).

Sleeprate introduces – a deeper view of sleep data

Technology can ease the burden on clinicians and provide opportunities for better care from a distance. Sleeprate’s Deepview was created to help provide better behavioral sleep medicine using accurate and reliable sleep data, user-friendly displays, and the opportunity for face to face and virtual visits, even asynchronous patient-therapist communications when needed.

Deepview is an accessible and comprehensive telemedicine tool developed by Sleeprate for to be used by the provider to access his patient’s data. Patients use a mobile app with or without a wearable device to keep track of their sleep in real-time. With Deepview, sleep therapists can offer better care to their patients. The platform enables providers, as mentioned, to follow closely patients’ progress. The solution empowers patients to be more involved in their own treatment. In between sessions they may use relevant stress management tools and content when they are facing a challenging situation, learning more about sleep and the therapy process.

See how it works: