Sleep awareness: ‘We have a lot of work ahead of us,’ says AAHS

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Friday, January 25, 2019

DARIEN, Ill. – The importance of a good night’s sleep makes headlines regularly, and more and more medical professionals recognize the role of sleep in overall health, but a new survey from the American Alliance for Healthy Sleep, shows barriers remain.

“The survey helped identify many of the barriers—just not knowing where to go, or how you are going to pay for it,” said says Patti Van Landingham, chairwoman of the alliance. “We have a lot of work ahead of us to provide the optimum care for these people.”

Van Landingham spoke with HME News recently about how AAHS, a patient-centered advocacy group launched last year by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, is using the survey results to continue building awareness of sleep.

HME News: Sleep is recognized as one of the key tenets to good health, so why is there still such a lack of awareness out there?

Patti Van Landingham: Almost half of the survey respondents said their primary care physician has never asked about their sleep. Doctors are so busy and have such a short window of time with the patient they can’t cover everything. But if the patient becomes aware of the impact of sleep disorders and brings it up, the physician will address it and refer them to a specialist.

HME: Even once a patient is diagnosed with sleep apnea or another sleep disorder, cost remains a factor when it comes to getting treatment?

Van Landingham: A lot of people aren’t aware of their insurance coverage, or a lot of companies don’t cover sleep because they are not aware of the cost of untreated care. We have been working with a lot of insurance companies, and also through employer groups and organizations. One of things we are stressing is testing, and we are working with trucking associations and encouraging mandatory testing and to have the employers pay for that.

HME: What’s on the agenda for AAHS in 2019?

Van Landingham: Our biggest approach is continuing efforts to educate the public about sleep disorders, the help available, and taking the stigma out of it. We really want to continue our collaboration with other sleep organizations on advocacy and we look forward to welcoming new members. We started last year with five volunteers and now we have 200 members—patients, sleep specialists and technologists, and providers. We can accomplish a lot more when we join forces and work together.