Fam Pract. 2009 Jun 2.

Sleep disorder symptoms are common and unspoken in Canadian general practice.


Bailes S, Baltzan M, Rizzo D, Fichten CS, Grad R, Wolkove N, Creti L, Amsel R, Libman E.

OBJECTIVE: Primary care patients were surveyed for what sleep disorder symptoms they discussed with their physicians. Their responses were compared with those of new Sleep clinic patients. The goal was to discover what symptom presentation leads to a successful referral to a sleep clinic. METHODS: We recruited two samples: 191 older Primary care patients and 138 Sleep clinic patients. Participants completed the Sleep Symptom Checklist (SSC). This consists of 21 symptoms in four domains: insomnia, sleep disorder, daytime symptoms and psychological distress. All respondents indicated which symptoms had been discussed with their physician in the past year. Primary care subjects were designated as Decliners (completed SSC, refused further evaluation), Dropouts [completed some evaluation steps, but not polysomnography (PSG)] and Completers (completed PSG). RESULTS: Primary care participants frequently had symptoms but relatively few had discussed them with their doctor. Sleep clinic participants discussed significantly more symptoms with their referring physician than did Primary care Dropouts or Decliners in all categories except psychological distress. Primary care Completers, 88.5% of whom were ultimately diagnosed with sleep apnoea/hypopnoea syndrome and/or periodic limb movement disorder, also discussed their sleep disorder symptoms less frequently than did Sleep clinic patients but tended to give more prominence to symptoms of insomnia and impaired daytime function. CONCLUSIONS: The findings suggest that Primary care patients often have symptoms they do not discuss, even when a primary sleep disorder exists. The brief SSC checklist, developed in our laboratory, has potential to improve the referral rates of older primary care patients who have sleep disorder.

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