Excessive Sleepiness Impacts More Than Quality of Life: More Awareness Needed

Monday, June 04, 2018

Results from a survey of sleep specialists suggest there is a need for greater awareness of the neurologic effects of excessive sleepiness (ES), including neuronal injury and neurocognitive impairments. In addition, the survey suggests that there is a lack of standardized assessment for excessive sleepiness, a key symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

The majority (97.6%) of the 476 physicians who responded to the survey were aware of ES in patients with OSA and the negative impact it can have on quality of life for those patients. Most (80%) of the physicians, who were pulmonologists, neurologists, and psychiatrists were also aware that ES could persist despite optimization of treatment for OSA. However, only 29% of the respondents were aware that ES may cause cognitive impairments and perhaps neuronal injury.

The survey also suggests there is wide variance in when and how ES is assessed. Pulmonologists reported using the ES scale most often (82%), whereas psychiatrists tend to ask informal questions about tiredness (76%), and neurologists are split between the ES scale (54%) and informal questions (68%). Psychiatrists assessed patients every 1-3 months, neurologists every 3 months, and pulmonologists every 6 months. These findings are important because research shows that patients tend to underreport ES, making it critical that their physicians initiate conversation about this symptom.   

The survey was created and sponsored by Jazz Pharmaceuticals (Dublin, Ireland) and administered by SERMO (New York, NY), an anonymous social media network for licensed physicians.

“Though significant progress is being made across medical disciplines to identify ES in patients with OSA, research shows that effects of this condition are far more detrimental to the brain than previously known,” said Jed Black, M.D., senior vice president, Sleep and CNS Medicine at Jazz Pharmaceuticals and adjunct professor, Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine. “Jazz is committed to ongoing research, education and advocacy on behalf of these patients and the sleep community to share insights that may lead to advances in treatment and medical practice.”

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