Translating sleep disorder research into clinical settings

Morgan Liotta

12/10/2022 4:02:04 PM

A new GP education program will include an implementation network to improve access and use of sleep disorder resources in primary care.

Women lying awake in bed
The RACGP has collaborated with the Australasian Sleep Association to develop sleep health education resources for GPs.

Leading sleep health researcher and Bond University Executive Dean Professor Nick Zwar recently told newsGP that for some GPs, it may ‘not always be easy to know’ what assessments to do and where to refer patients with sleep disorders.
Given that obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) and insomnia commonly present in primary care, GPs and the practice team have a key role to play in reducing their impact on physical and mental health, according to Professor Zwar’s research at the National Centre for Sleep Health Services.
To further support GPs in this space, the Australasian Sleep Association (ASA) was recently awarded a three-year Australian Government Health Peak and Advisory Bodies grant, linked to the National Preventive Health Strategy priorities.
The funding will enable development of a GP education program to improve access and use of evidence-based sleep disorder resources by GPs, practice nurses and psychologists.
Dr Alexander Sweetman, Research Fellow at Flinders University’s Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health and ASA Program Manager is leading the project.
As part of the program, he is developing a new sleep health implementation network of GPs and researchers interested in translating the management of sleep disorders into general practice settings.
‘Implementation of evidence into practice takes a huge amount of time,’ Dr Sweetman told newsGP.
‘The primary care implementation network of GPs accessing recent evidence-based interventions, technology and models of care for sleep disorders, and providing feedback on these for research studies … will help to speed up the translation process.’
The network aims to provide primary care clinicians with the latest evidence-base and management models to improve sleep health and sleep disorders, with an opportunity to participate in innovative sleep research and translation studies.
‘By translating evidence-based sleep health treatment and care pathways into practice, [we can help to] improve the lives of Australians [experiencing sleep disorders],’ Dr Sweetman said.
The project leader also pointed to examples of primary care clinician collaboration with the ASA, with the most significant being the recently approved RACGP Accepted Clinical Resource – the sleep health primary care ‘living guidelines’ of which GPs are being asked to provide qualitative feedback to refine for primary care use.
The resource will be launched at GP22 by Dr Sweetman and Professor Zwar.
The ASA will also author a 2023 focus article in the Australian Journal of General Practice on sleep health and sleep disorders, and has worked with the RACGP and Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health to update the gplearning insomnia and OSA modules.
Meanwhile, online education events have been delivered to GPs, including the RACGP Specific Interests webinar on identifying and managing insomnia, and an ASA webinar on the management of less common sleep disorders in primary care.
Over the past five years, the National Centre for Sleep Health Services research team has also worked closely with the RACGP and other professional organisations to understand the current landscape of insomnia and OSA management in Australian primary care, to develop new evidence-based resources and treatment/referral options.
‘The ASA program aims to implement these new resources, understand how they are used, and develop new resources and education opportunities where needed,’ Dr Sweetman said.
‘Supporting GPs to access and use evidence-based information and treatments for sleep disorders will improve the management of sleep health and sleep disorders in primary care – and translate to improved health for millions of Australians.’
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insomnia obstructive sleep apnoea sleep disorders sleep health translational research

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