AASM Releases Position Statement on Opioid Use and Sleep Loss 

opioids and sleep

With usage on the rise, caregivers need to learn effects on health and focus beyond quitting

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) released a position statement that aims to clarify the relationship between opioid therapy, sleep patterns, and resulting daytime sleepiness. 

“It is also important for medical providers to be cognizant of other adverse effects of chronic opioid use including the impact on respiratory function during sleep,” read the statement.

Fatigue and disturbed sleep are common symptoms of chronic pain, but the relationship between opioids, sleep, and daytime function is not as well understood. Chronic use of opioid therapy is known to disrupt sleep architecture and sleep stage distribution. These opioid-related sleep disturbances in turn can cause or contribute to disturbed sleep, fatigue and daytime sleepiness.

The AASM summarized its position via several bullet points:

  • Medical providers need to be aware that chronic opioid therapy can alter sleep architecture and cause respiratory depression, increasing the risk for sleep-disordered breathing.
  • Appropriate screening and diagnostic testing can identify sleep-related hypoventilation, CSA, and OSA in people treated with chronic opioid therapy.
  • The treatment of opioid-associated sleep-disordered breathing can improve patients’ health and well-being.
  • In patients with chronic pain, collaboration is encouraged among primary care providers, pain medicine specialists, and sleep specialists to provide high quality, patient-centered care for people who are treated with chronic opioid therapy.
  • Medical providers need to be aware that the cautious and judicious use of low-dose opioid therapy is a treatment option for severe, refractory RLS.

“This statement increases awareness among health care providers of the important adverse events that can occur in patients on chronic opioid therapy,” said co-author Dr. R. Nisha Aurora, Associate Professor of Medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey. “The paper also highlights the need for providers to recognize and diagnose sleep-related breathing disorders that are frequently seen with chronic opioid use.”

View the entire position statement here:

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