AASM survey highlights increase in sleep disturbances during COVID-19 pandemic
More than half of Americans surveyed indicated experiencing an increase in sleep disturbances since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to results of the 2021 Sleep Prioritization Survey from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Despite this increase in sleep disturbances — which are sometimes referred to as “COVID-somnia,” according to the press release — only 20% of people surveyed said they would contact a sleep center to address the issues.
“Sleep is essential for overall health, well-being and safety, and there are many options for patients to receive sleep care safely,” Indira Gurubhagavatula, MD, MPH, chair of the AASM COVID-19 Task Force and associate professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the Veteran's Administration Medical Center, said in the press release. “I urge patients to avoid delaying care for sleep disorders, which can lead to more serious health problems if ignored or left untreated.”
The 2021 AASM Sleep Prioritization survey included 2,006 adults in the United States who answered questions online from March 11-15, 2021. Specifically, Gurubhagavatula and colleagues asked participants what steps they would take if they believed they had a sleep disorder. The study included more women (n = 1,039) than men (n = 967) and more respondents fell into the group aged 35 to 44 years (n = 456) than any other group, according to the survey results.
Survey results indicated that only 20% of respondents would contact a sleep center if they believed they had a sleep disorder, according to the survey results. Older respondents, including those aged 55 to 64 years (14%) and those aged older than 65 (9%), were least likely to contact a sleep center if they believed they had a sleep disorder. Additionally, half of survey respondents (50%) said they would conduct online researcher and 29% said they “would wait for their sleep to get better.” Among all age groups, the most common response to the primary survey question was “contact a health care provider.”
Reasons for delaying care ranged from financial concerns to safety concerns, according to the press release. The percentage of patients who reported financial concerns as a primary reason preventing them from making an appointment at a sleep center (38%) was only slightly higher than the percentage of patients who express safety concerns related to COVID-19 (37%). However, the press release noted that “sleep centers continue to follow the recommendations of the CDC and guidance from the AASM,” including the use of personal protective equipment, prescreening for COVID-19 symptoms, sanitizing, social distancing, improved air purification and the option for telemedicine.
“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,” Gurubhagavatula said. “A sleep study is safe and accredited sleep centers provide comfortable accommodations for patients.”
American Academy of Sleep Medicine. AASM Sleep Prioritization Survey. Available at: https://j2vjt3dnbra3ps7ll1clb4q2-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/sleep-prioritization-survey-2021-addressing-sleep-disorders.pdf. Accessed May 17, 2021.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Treating sleep disorders is safe and effective. Available at: https://aasm.org/treating-sleep-disorders-is-safe-and-effective/. Accessed May 17, 2021.