Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

A Survey of Physical Therapists' Perception and Attitude about Sleep

Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

A Survey of Physical Therapists' Perception and Attitude about Sleep

Article excerpt

PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to assess the attitude and perception of physical therapists (PTs) on the perceived need to assess sleep of their patients and provide education about sleep to their patients, as well as to determine the perceived need for PTs to be educated on sleep topics. METHODS: An electronic survey was sent to internship site coordinators. Descriptive analyses and logistic regressions were conducted. RESULTS: The response rate was 28% (n=76). Most respondents (93%) agreed poor sleep is associated with impaired function. Eighty-two percent agreed that PTs should assess patients' sleep habits and sleep quality, and 95% agreed that addressing sleep issues may impact PT outcomes. The majority did not receive education about sleep during entry-level PT education (75%) or following graduation (86%). Most respondents (95%) thought PTs should receive education about sleep. CONCLUSION: PTs recognize that sleep impacts outcomes, and patients' sleep should be assessed. However, PTs have not received education about sleep, although the majority thought PTs should receive education about sleep. Therefore, entry-level PT education programs may consider incorporating education about sleep, and the development of continuing education courses is also needed. J Allied Health 2015; 44(1):41-50.

SLEEP IS CRITICAL for many different processes in the body including healing,1-3 pain modulation,4-6 cardiovascular health,7-9 modulating anxiety and depression,10,11 cognitive function,12-14 and learning and memory.15-17 Sleep deprivation and a variety of sleep disorders result in reduced workplace productivity,18,19 negatively impact public safety,20 and affect personal well-being, including performance deficits, excessive daytime sleepiness, depressed mood, and impairments in concentration and memory.21-23

It is estimated that almost 40 million Americans have a chronic sleep disorder.24,25 Sleep issues cost US employers $18 billion as a result of reduced productivity.27,28 Around 62% of US adults experience a sleep problem several nights a week and 30% suffer from insomnia in the course of any given year.29,30 Sleep disorders and reduced sleep quality should be considered a public health concern.

Despite the importance of sleep for adequate body function, the impact poor sleep can have on outcomes, as well as the prevalence of sleep issues, sleep disturbances are often overlooked by the medical community. Sleep assessment is not typically part of a physical therapist's (PT) evaluation or other non-physician health care professional's evaluation, as sleep assessment would generally be considered under the practice domain of a physician. However, due to the critical impact sleep has on body function, particularly in cognitive function, pain modulation, and learning and memory, PTs and other health care professionals are in a prime position to assess sleep as well as provide education about ways to improve sleep within the scope of their practice. Because of the nature of the PTs' prolonged patient engagement and in-depth appraisal of functional activities and lifestyle factors, PTs may notice sleep issues and could refer a patient to a sleep specialist if warranted. Furthermore, when patients' sleep is disrupted or their quality of sleep is reduced, this can interfere with their performance in therapy and ultimately their outcomes.31,32

Several studies have used surveys to assess the perception, attitude, and knowledge of other health care professions including physicians,33,34 nurses,35,36 pharmacists,37 and psychologists.38 Overall, the health care professionals rated their knowledge as fair to poor and reported they spend more time counseling patients on diet and exercise over sleep need.33,39 Only one paper40 has provided an overview of sleep assessment and why the evaluation of sleep and basic sleep recommendations need to be considered as fundamental clinical competencies in contemporary physical therapy care. …

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