One of the most important factors for a restful night is the practice of good sleep habits. From a patient perspective, sleep habits, however, are often overlooked, being sidelined by focus on identifying and treating sleep disorders. Similarly, sleep-care professionals tend to overlook their own sleep habits, which can cause unexpected and unneeded challenges during their work shifts. This brief article is intended to be a reminder to check sleep habits to ensure a good night’s rest for both your patients and yourself — the sleep professional.
Consider the following scenario: A sleep professional goes into the sleep lab, sets up a patient and titrates them perfectly. The patient goes home and tries to acclimate to their positive airway therapy pressure (PAP) therapy. They are able to tolerate the mask and pressure, however they have insomnia and are unable to stay asleep. At their follow-up visit with their sleep-care provider, their compliance data looks decent but shows disrupted sleep and is short on usage hours. They are also still reporting insomnia and fatigue with daytime sleepiness. After further evaluation, it is determined that they have poor sleep hygiene and the patient is given instructions on how to improve their sleep hygiene before being sent home. The patient experiences optimal rest after correcting their sleep habits and being adherent to PAP therapy.
What if those sleep hygiene issues had been addressed early in the process, even as early as the setup stage at the lab? The patient could have had a better experience while attempting to acclimate to PAP therapy.
The effects of poor sleep habits are well known in our industry. Further, disturbed sleep or insufficient sleep has been reported to have adverse effects on the cognitive ability, performance and health of the affected person, highlighting the importance of sufficient and good quality sleep.1 As sleep professionals, we can get tunnel vision and forget to address the sleep hygiene basics: sleep in a dark, cool room; establish routine bed and wake times; limit electronic exposure before bedtime; the list goes on and on. Therefore, it’s important that we form the habit of addressing and resolving poor sleep habits with our patients during all stages of their sleep assessment/testing as poor habits may develop long after diagnosis and treatment.
On the flip side, as we are helping our patients, it’s important that sleep-care professionals also practice what we preach about sleep hygiene to our patients. Whether we’re feeling sluggish during a shift in the lab or have recently switched from working nights to days, we can use sleep hygiene to assist with daily changes as well as the big adjustments. After all, following good sleep hygiene practices may serve as non-pharmacological treatment against sleep disturbances to some extent and lead us to a road of good sleep health.1
For sleep-care professionals, one of the primary habits we may be neglecting yet preaching is a consistent routine for bed and wake times. Sleep disturbances — including a lack of consistent bed and wake times — can significantly impact employee behavior, mental alertness, physical appearance, daytime physiology, emotional condition and health.2 If you are able, try setting times that work for your schedule and stay in this pattern for a week. If you are unable to, try implementing a turnaround day before your next shift as well as after your last shift as a way to reset your body. Set the example for other sleep-care professionals and your coworkers by being the beacon of good sleep health and being consistent in your practices.
Practicing what you preach can and will go a long way when it comes to sleep hygiene. Not only will patients feel encouraged to establish and follow sleep hygiene best practices but sleep professionals will be able to improve their own sleep health, ultimately leading to better patient care.
- Singh S. Good sleep hygiene practices: A needful step towards healthy population. IJCSPUB.org. 2 May 2023. https://ijcspub. org/papers/IJCSP23B1275.pdf
- Chen PH, Kuo HY & Chueh KH. Sleep Hygiene Education: Efficacy on Sleep Quality in Working Women. Journal of Nursing Research. Dec 2010;18(4):283-289.