As sleep deprivation becomes an increasingly prevalent problem in society, new solutions will arise. Any number of these solutions could become a trend and perhaps influence patients to pursue a different alternative other than traditional sleep laboratory testing. One recent “solution” that I noticed gaining increasing attention is that of a sleep counselor.
When I first read about a sleep counselor at wellrestedwoman.com, I was intrigued by the concept of specialized counseling regarding sleep habits. According to the Web site, “A sleep counselor reviews your global sleep patterns then targets specific interventions and behavior modifications to help you regain restful and rejuvenating sleep.” Janet Kinosian, the counselor behind wellrestedwoman.com, has a BA in psychology and an MA in counseling psychology; she has evaluated about 25 clients and charges $150 an hour for the counseling.
After I browsed through the site, I asked myself: “Is there a need for a sleep counselor when sleep labs and their staff already exist to educate patients about sleep disorders?” Well, if sleep professionals are taking the time to educate patients, there is no need for a sleep counselor. But if extra time does need to be dedicated, perhaps the sleep profession should consider the following:
1. Support the development of a sleep educator credential. The field of sleep medicine can demonstrate its dedication to patients’ education if a specialized credential was developed and supported by the sleep medicine community. Formal specialization and recognition would eliminate the need for counseling outside of the sleep community.
Complete sleep educator curriculum is available in this online issue.
2. Continue your education about sleep medicine. According to the results of Sleep Review‘s Salary Survey, only 37% of the people who responded said they were currently pursuing further formal education. By pursuing further education, sleep professionals will not only gain greater credibility but also be enabled to share more knowledge about sleep medicine with patients.
3. Secure funding for sleep research. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) and member organizations of the National Sleep Awareness Roundtable (NSART) are currently pushing to secure funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This funding would add sleep-related items to established surveillance systems. “Baseline data and tracking measures are needed to identify clear goals and metrics for subsequent educational programs and intervention models related to promulgating good sleep habits, the treatment of sleep disorders, and combating the consequences of sleep deprivation,” said Darrel Drobnich, NSF chief program officer—policy, education, and research, in a previous issue of Sleep Report, Sleep Review‘s weekly e-newsletter. Supporting the development of such programs could help in the educational endeavors of sleep professionals.
4. Take adequate time to interact with and counsel patients. Ensuring that patients are educated about their sleep disorders and that proper follow-up care is issued will help assure that the role of patient education remains within the scope of traditional sleep medicine professionals.
The sleep community has managed to achieve great advancements in sleep medicine by taking action. In order to ensure that the role of the educator stays within the community of sleep medicine professionals, it is key to play your part in professional development. Stay informed about professional development opportunities and trends in sleep medicine by [register]subscribing to Sleep Report[/register], our weekly e-newsletter.
—Franklin A. Holman