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Focus on sleep disorders

Ten health organisations and groups have joined forces to highlight a worrying rise in the number of sleep disorders.

A new consortium aims to raise public and political awareness of sleep disorders. Set up by the British Thoracic Society, it includes a member from the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Respiratory Care (ACPRC), who will sit alongside representatives from the Royal College of Physicians and British Paediatric Respiratory Society, among others. The consortium will also seek to improve education and training for healthcare staff who treat patients with sleep disorders. The awareness campaign will focus in particular on sleep apnoea, a disorder characterised by periods of a cessation of breathing while asleep and the inability to move respiratory muscles. It is far more common than people think, said Anne Bruton, the physiotherapy representative on the group. 'Sleep apnoea is an increasingly prevalent problem, especially with the rise in cases of obesity,' Anne told Frontline. 'There is a strong link between sleep apnoea and obesity because of the obstruction that can occur. There is also a risk that people with the condition could suddenly fall asleep while driving, so it is also dangerous from this point of view.'

Anne is a research officer for the ACPRC and has a background in respiratory research at postgraduate level. Her role on the consortium is to represent the views of all physiotherapists working in respiratory medicine, which is vital to manage a condition
that often leaves people feeling depressed, irritable and with frequent headaches. 'Physios become involved in the treatment of these patients using mechanical devices such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), or by giving advice on behavioural
or postural measures,' Anne said. 'Some may also be involved during the assessment phase using oximetry [measurement of oxyhaemoglobin in the blood] and capnography [measurement of the proportion of carbon dioxide in expired air].' CPAP treatment works well for most patients but the equipment, made up of both machinery and items such as masks and tubes, is expensive. Service structure and availability is also patchy because decisions are made at local rather than national level. The consortium aims to tackle these issues. A main thrust of its activity will be to look at funding for non-invasive forms of treatment as well as CPAP equipment. Meanwhile, a private members bill to push for service improvements for people with sleep disorders across the country is planned. So, too, is work to increase knowledge of sleep disorders among the general public. To help with this, the consortium will draw on Sleep SOS, a report published by the Sleep Alliance in July.

Anne Bruton wants to represent the views of all physiotherapists working in respiratory care at the next meeting of the Sleep Apnoea Con-sortium, currently scheduled for October 18. Those working in the specialty who are not members of the ACPRC can contact Anne on tel: 02380 595283, or email: ab7@soton.ac.uk

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