Tele-sleep Medicine: An Opportunity in a Crisis
The countrywide lockdown in India has necessitated healthcare providers consider alternate options for providing care during the COVID-19 pandemic. While there has been a tremendous focus in coping with emergency and inpatient care for COVID-19 related illness, there is also an increasing need to address management of non-communicable disease. The pandemic and the associated lockdown have witnessed the onset or worsening of sleep disorders often related to changing lifestyle, including inactivity, fear of the disease, and generalised anxiety caused by the uncertainty of the future. We propose the term ‘Lockdown Sleep Syndrome’ to describe this grouping of signs and symptoms. The wide coverage and extensive use of smartphones and more importantly, the appropriately timed Telemedicine Practice Guidelines from the Government of India, have made telehealth an attractive option, particularly in specialities such as Sleep Medicine which involves minimal physical examination. The experience of restricting personal visits to the clinic and promoting teleconsultation during the initial fifty days of lockdown is described. It was observed that two thirds of consultations shifted to a telehealth platform, and this was effective in giving satisfactory care and valid prescriptions, including to those outside the city of Chennai. Telemedicine not only helped provide uncompromised care to existing patients but also helped in identifying and managing the onset of new sleep problems with a pattern of signs and symptoms which are described as “Lockdown Sleep Syndrome”.
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