Background: Sleep services are assigned a non-essential status during COVID-19. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine strongly urges sleep clinicians to continue postponing non-urgent care until a later date, if such a recommendation is made by state officials due to local conditions. At the same time, one cannot ignore the fact that sleep is important for people's health and wellbeing. Therefore, to protect the health of the population, it is essential to find ways and means to continue the practice of sleep medicine even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Method: Social environment and work ethics in sleep clinics and sleep laboratories in Asia, Africa, and Latin America are different from those in the US. Under these circumstances, the Indian Society for Sleep Research (ISSR) created a task force to develop guidelines for the practice of sleep medicine, not only for the Indian environment but also for other countries that are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The task force examined documents regarding practice of sleep medicine and associated specialities during COVID-19 by various professional organizations and governmental authorities. The recommendations were examined for their applicability. Wherever gaps were identified, consensus was reached keeping in view the available evidences.
Outcome and recommendations: The emphasis of the guidelines is on avoiding doctor to patient contact during the pandemic. Teleconsultation and other modes of audio-visuals can be used as modes for medical practice during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in addition to the patient, the presence of a family member, or a reliable informant is recommended. Patients of most sleep disorders can be provided tele-aftercare service. ISSR guidelines also give a list of medications allowed to be prescribed during the first and the follow-up teleconsultation. Hospitals and clinics are slowly opening in India and many other countries. As sleep services resume operations, there is a need to find innovative ways to reduce contact with COVID-19 patients, follow personal protection guidelines, as well as social distancing. This article does discuss strategies for the safe conduct of Level 1 sleep studies. Home sleep testing, which had greater acceptance during the last few years, should be given more attention during the COVID-19 period. Once the decision to reopen the sleep laboratory and resume operations is made, the safety of the patients and office staff should become the major priority. The ISSR recommendation is to postpone and reschedule in-laboratory positive pressure therapy, but it mentions the considerations to be followed in emergency situations. At the same time, high clinical risk patients may be diagnosed on the basis of clinical findings, and without performing polysomnography or home sleep testing. However, at some point, there is a need to reinitiate the in-lab testing. In addition, daily assessment of the COVID-19 situation in the community, along with a review of the situation with local public health and the state health department is advised.
Keywords: COVID-19; Home sleep study; In-lab testing; Level-1 sleep study; Pandemic; Personal protective equipment (PPE); Polysomnography; Positive airway pressure (PAP); Sleep medicine; Teleconsultation; Titration.
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