Keeping alert about sleep

sleep apnoea - woman wearing cpap

Mixed findings for pharmacists from a review of healthcare providers’ sleep management awareness  

Australian community pharmacists have led the way internationally in providing sleep health-related services, but issues remain about some of their recommendations and education in this field, say researchers. 

A multi-discipline group of academics has reviewed the awareness and level of knowledge of sleep health for five frontline healthcare providers: general practitioners/primary care providers, pediatricians, psychologists, pharmacists, and nurses.

The authors, who included Professor Bandana Saini, Sydney Pharmacy School, The University of Sydney, said that “all healthcare disciplines currently receive limited training in addressing deficient sleep, which is contributing to the current health crisis”.

“Deficient sleep has been recognised as a current health crisis in Australia and New Zealand, contributing to the increased prevalence and severity of chronic diseases and mental health issues,” they said. 

The researchers said Australian pharmacists had been “at the forefront of trialing various health service models including screening for sleep disorders, audits of pharmacy-housed OSA services, and behavioural treatment for insomnia.

Globally, Australian community pharmacists have been lauded as the first to recognise the need for a
sleep health-related service provision, and participate in academic and commercially driven research to address sleep health in the community.”

However, their review of previous studies did identify issues around treatment recommendation and advice.

In a study where a simulated patient with acute insomnia was presented to 100 pharmacies in Sydney, 42% of pharmacists provided non-pharmacological advice and 96% supplied a product; of those, 31% of the products were herbal supplements for which evidence is insufficient.

“As pharmacists may often be the frontline healthcare provider for patients with insomnia or other sleep issues, increased sleep knowledge and training for pharmacists is also essential,” the authors said.

Three key themes emerged from their review across the five professions:

  • relevant training for students from all healthcare disciplines;
  • continuing professional development for practicing healthcare providers; and
  • translation of evidence-driven best practice into clinical practice.

“Sleep health awareness in the pharmacy sector may be less than for other chronic conditions,” Professor Saini told AJP.

“This is the case across the health professions – and the reasons are firstly sleep medicine is as yet a new discipline with discoveries still being made and second health curricula devote very little space to sleep health (even medical curricula)”.

“Pharmacists are keen to know more about sleep and circadian health, well-designed modules can improve knowledge, skills, confidence and improve health outcomes in patients being cared for by trained pharmacists (we have shown this),” she said.

“So a national effort needs to be made to create awareness about sleep and circadian health – and to develop clinical education standards around this for all pharmacy schools or to guide CPD on this topic”.

“By improving education and clinical practice in sleep, we will equip healthcare providers with the knowledge and skills needed to address deficient sleep,” the authors concluded. 

The study was published in the journal Sleep Research

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