Like food, water and air, sleep is essential for survival and good health. For many, however, getting a good night’s sleep is difficult—whether it’s due to lifestyle factors or a serious sleep disorder such as insomnia or sleep apnea. Increased risks of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, heart attack and stroke can accompany a lack of sleep.
Because sleep deprivation is so prevalent and the risks are so high, health care providers are recognizing the need to be more engaged with patients who struggle with sleep to ensure improved, long-term health. To do this, providers need to be cognizant of their patients’ status over time, spanning all levels of care. This requires not only connected care technologies that offer continuous evaluation and communication between physician and patient, but also making research-based technology available to consumers.
The use of clinically validated solutions that address needs across the health care continuum—from healthy living and prevention to diagnosis, treatment and, ultimately, homecare—can help provide the accurate data and therapy needed to provide the highest quality of care.
Connected Care for Sleep Disorders
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 70 million people in the United States alone suffer from chronic sleep problems such as insomnia, short sleep, snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
When left untreated, sleep disorders can have severe health effects, which is why payers have begun to prioritize sleep management. Medicare, for example, requires sleep apnea patients to become compliant within 90 days of starting continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. Compliance to therapy is defined as usage greater than or equal to four hours per night on 70 percent of nights during a consecutive 30-day period during the first 90 days of initial usage. With this intensified pressure from payers, homecare providers must engage with their patients to help decrease risk and ensure they receive the necessary treatment for improved outcomes.
This is where connected care solutions can play a significant role in allowing the care team to stay in touch with their patients throughout the course of therapy. The idea of connected sleep therapy devices sharing data in real time is becoming more the norm. Some manufacturers offer remote patient management solutions that allow providers, physicians and payers to review data through one, unified platform, and make fast, informed decisions for more personalized patient care. Patients can then work with their care team to continue identifying the most effective therapy and monitor progress, which is especially helpful when therapy takes time to achieve adequate adherence.
It’s important that sleep solutions not only have connectivity capabilities, but also validation in a clinical setting. For today’s providers, there are a multitude of clinically validated solutions available that can effectively treat patients with OSA and positional OSA, while also providing new levels of comfort and convenience for different lifestyles and preferences. Sleep technology, such as CPAP devices and sleep positional trainers, can provide accurate data, further supporting physicians and equipment providers in their care decisions. This data, coupled with connectivity capabilities, allows clinicians to make informed, confident decisions in near real time, and for patients to adjust therapy as needed.
To further assist with adjustment and adherence to therapy, applications designed using behavior change models can motivate and engage patients in their treatment. There are many health behavior applications on the market today, but few studies report the outcomes of using these applications. This is because changing behavior is more complex than simply providing feedback to the patient. Applications that use behavioral models and provide personalized information increase the chances of adherence. For instance, sleep apnea patients who use a CPAP therapy adherence mobile application use their therapy on average 29 percent more nights and an average of 22 percent longer each night.
Solutions for Sleepless Lifestyles
While diagnosed sleep disorders can impact the quality of sleep people get each night, lifestyle is another primary cause of inadequate sleep. Short sleep duration can result from a variety of different causes, including job, family, exercise, social media, among others. Almost 40 percent of people ages 25 to 54 get fewer than the recommended 7 hours of sleep per night, and typically report weaker concentration, memory and focus. To address the lack of sleep due to lifestyle, few solutions are currently available that are rooted in medical evidence, thus ensuring credible results such as improved sleep efficiency and productive and healthy days.
For individuals who need more sleep, but cannot change the number of hours in bed, solutions that focus on enhancing the quality, rather than quantity, of sleep may prove useful. Unlike sleep trackers that merely monitor sleep patterns, clinically validated wearables, such as a sleep headband, work to improve sleep quality by enhancing slow brain waves. In a recent study, 70 percent of chronically sleep-deprived users between the ages of 18 and 50 reported feeling less tired during the day just after two weeks.
For individuals with a sleep disorder, identification of the problem is the first step in improving sleep. Once identified, people can turn to a variety of solutions that will accommodate their lifestyle and sleep challenges. For those looking to reduce snoring, there are solutions that promote proper sleep positioning. Snoring is often loudest and more frequent when lying on the back. Many medical studies show a reduction in snoring when time on the back is reduced. Wearables that prompt users to stay on their side and avoid the supine position (lying horizontally with the face and torso facing up) are often helpful in alleviating the problem.
For people having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, there are behavioral solutions that provide customized and personalized programs to help retrain sleep habits. This motivates and builds confidence in the ability to fall and stay asleep. Some mobile apps offer cognitive behavioral therapy with new sleeping habits and schedules that consistently improve sleep quality.
The Path to Better Sleep
Because sleep is so essential to overall health, it is vital that physicians and patients turn to solutions that will guarantee a good night’s sleep. These solutions include clinically validated technologies, applications and programs that can span across a patient’s entire sleep health journey, and connect them with their care team when needed. It is only with innovative solutions that a patient’s decline in quality and quantity of sleep will begin to reverse.